Last night, Prof. Sundaram, Steve, Manoj, Itamar, Pat, and I were able to attend an event co-hosted by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the US Climate Action Partnership, two organizations through which business leaders are working with regulators to establish legislation that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It was an interesting atmosphere, with a big group of people meeting each other for drinks and food.
The highlights of the event were short speeches by Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and Dr. Steven Chu, the Nobel Laureate and United States Secretary of Energy. Both speakers were excited to address the business community present at the event and stated their belief that business has a huge role to play in addressing the climate change problem.
Mr. de Boer began his address saying that he was “not sure whether he was on a roller coaster in a house of horrors or floating around in a balloon shaped like a pink elephant.” This was in reference to the changing state of the negotiations to date and the uncertainty of eventual outcome of COP15. Mr. de Boer was excited by the fact that developing nations are very involved in the negotiations and that they want to be a part of the solution. He was also excited about the fact that a large number of heads of state would be present for the final days of the event, but cautioned the audience about being blinded by the hype around their arrival.
The main takeaway from Mr. de Boer’s speech was in what he stated was a “lack of reference to markets in the proposed solutions.” He said that the private sector would be required to deliver 95% of the investment required to solve the climate change problem and stressed that market based solutions are essential to incentivize this investment. His final challenge to the members of the business community present was to help define an architecture that would work in varying political and economic climates.
Dr. Chu spoke next, starting by saying that “given the fact that we have to act, and that developing and developed countries are on board with the actions that need to be taken: we will live in a carbon constrained world.” He stressed the opportunities of building new infrastructure in the developed world and of incorporating the newest technologies in the developing world, saying that the solution to the problem that we face will require use of technologies in use today, nascent technologies, and new inventions.
Dr. Chu concluded his remarks by saying that “necessity is the mother of all invention, and we have the mother of all necessities”. His final charge to the audience was to “take the inventions [that come from this necessity], save the world, and make lots of money doing it.”
We had a unique opportunity to speak with Dr. Chu on the sidelines during the event. He was very happy that students at Tuck are interested in studying the impact of climate change and had made the trip to Copenhagen. He opined that this is the next big opportunity after the industrial revolution and said he believes that businesses who are proactive in adapting to the carbon constrained environment will be the ones who will come out as winners.
It was great to hear both of these gentlemen make optimistic remarks when the outcome of the conference is uncertain. It was also good that their remarks show that both Mr. de Boer and Dr. Chu understand the significant role of business in making any solution to the climate change problem a reality. With our whole delegation interested in technology development and the markets created to aid the climate change solutions, these marks were exactly what we wanted to hear.
Prof. Sundaram and the team are very grateful to Tim Juliani of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change for inviting the Tuck team to the event.
Note: A picture of the Tuck team with Dr. Chu will follow this post.