The Implications of the Copenhagen Summit for Globally Responsible Leaders

Post-Copenhagen, it is becoming clear that the only responsible thing for companies and financial institutions to do is to call for a new global framework for carbon taxation, and an end to ineffective and unfair carbon cap and trade markets. The intergovernmental paralysis that has been caused over the last 18 years by seeking agreements on carbon caps, the daylight robbery of both tax payers and consumers that current carbon markets have aided, and their complete ineffectiveness in reducing real carbon emissions, means that a fresh paradigm is called for. Polluters and banks can make millions out of carbon markets, and so their lobbying for such markets is not a sign of responsible leadership, but the exact opposite − exploiting people at a time of global fear. In 1992, carbon cap and trade came to dominate the policy agenda because there was no real will from business to bring emissions down. Today there is such will, and so negotiations need to focus on what will work, and that means putting the cash-grab that carbon markets present into the dustbin of history. It’s a dustbin we could label with the reminder: “beware how selfish elites can threaten our very civilisation.” Post-Copenhagen, the pragmatic arguments for cap and trade have been shown for what they are – the spin of special interests. We must never assume that just by working on an issue of public concern that we are doing a good thing − it depends entirely on why we work on that issue, and on the effectiveness and fairness of our contribution. Many talented individuals have progressed over the past decade from concerned environmentalists to leaders in carbon-markets. Fortunately they now have the chance to use their roles responsibly and promote real solutions, not just serve the elites and their own careers. It’s their choice. In this paper I explore the clear need for them to make that choice.

Download the paper in pdf.

The paper will be adapted to appear in the Journal of Corporate Citizenship and the Lifeworth Annual Review of Corporate Responsibility in 2009. Please comment below, especially if you are working on global carbon charging advocacy.

Thanks, Jem Bendell, Director, Lifeworth Consulting.

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