Don’t forget SMEs in Business and Climate

“The human environmental and financial cost of climate change is fast becoming unbearable,” warned United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in September 2014. “To ride this storm we need all hands on deck,” he stressed. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and many other foreign officials are actively preparing for the climate conference (COP21) that will take place in Paris on November 29-December 11, 2015. Compared with previous conferences, the Parisian edition seems to focus more on what the private sector can do about climate change in cooperation with international and State organizations. The French Deposits and Consignments Fund (CDC) decided to incite companies and their shareholders to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by “integrating the dimension of the energy transition in the usual risk-return preferences of portfolio management,” said Director General Pierre-René Lemas.

This move, according to Cyceon, has anticipated a future European Union (EU) directive that will set up a “high and stable carbon pricing” by January 2019 similar to what French President François Hollande and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres have supported recently. On May 21, 2015, a Business and Climate Summit has been held at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris that underlined the fact that an international agreement on climate couldn’t exist without the participation of business people and companies. “The United Nations realized they cannot deliver without companies,” commented Brice Lalonde, former French Environment Minister and Special Advisor on sustainable development to the UN Global Compact. Initiatives such as the Investor Platform for Climate Actions through which “global investors launched platform for climate actions and commitments,” or the Carbon Value for Businessintended for companies to provide good practices and the necessary keys to understand their carbon emission monetization approach,” are participating in the development of such awareness.

These initiatives are positive, however there are so many of them that it might cloud the message in the end. “Mainly the biggest companies can afford to take part while most of the SMEs are witnessing the climate-related developments from the outside,” explained Cyceon. “There are two main conditions for COP21’s success. First multilateral and reciprocal: huge emerging countries such as China, India must strongly commit themselves to reducing greenhouse gas. It’s unlikely to say the least. Second realistic and inclusive: the SMEs, particularly in Europe, must be included into the process without further jeopardizing their balance sheet. If you take a look at who has participated in the latest conferences, you realize that much remains to be done in this field.” Summing up, big business is not business as a whole, and COP21 has to better take these facts into account if it wants its positive business-oriented consideration to develop its full potential.