COP17: The Reactions from the Carbon and Climate Change Industry

Global leaders have until 2017 to devise a legally binding agreement to limit climate change warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

Responses to the deal reached by 195 countries at the climate change talks in Durban last week range from praising the compromise as a “historic agreement” to accusing it of giving in to polluters at the expense of the planet.  However, the deal has all countries agreeing to work towards a legally binding emissions reduction scheme by 2015, to be implemented by 2020. It was forged in the last hours of the Conference of the Parties (COP).

Peter Hoskin, Senior Carbon  and Climate Change Consultant at International Sustainability Recruitment Consultants, Allen & York has interviewed a number of leading professionals within the Carbon and Climate Change industry; gaining an insight into thought leaders opinions of the results achieved at COP17.

Who Peter Hoskin interviewed:

  • Dan Staniaszek, Managing Director, Sustainability Consulting Ltd
  • Cedric Bleuez, Managing Director, Carbon Market Data
  • Lisa Zenter, Chief Sustainability Officer in Montreal, Quebec

1) China and the United States, ended their long time coalition of the unwilling and joined a historic UN climate deal in Durban on the final day of COP 17.  How important do you think it is that the US and China have agreed to reach a legally binding agreement on pollution by 2015, to take effect in 2020?

Dan Staniaszek: This is a necessary, but not a sufficient response by the US and China.  Clearly, without the world’s worst two emitters with one a developed country and the other a developing one, there would be no hope of a meaningful agreement.  However, leaving it until 2020 to take effect is, according to most climate scientists, leaving it too late.

Cedric Bleuez: In the last few years, China has been much more pro-active than the US on the climate change mitigation front.

Lisa Zenter: As 2 of the 3 largest emitters of carbon in the world, the US in particular had to come to the table after not having ratified Kyoto (Protocol). It would have been disastrous otherwise. As important as their agreement is however, 2020 is unfortunately very far away.

2) Many developing countries that are at risk of being swamped by rising ocean levels and extreme weather have said the deal marked the lowest common denominator possible and lacked the ambition needed to ensure their survival. What are your thoughts on this?

Cedric Bleuez: The world is currently losing some precious time before taking seriously the threat of climate change and deciding some real action on a global scale.

Lisa Zenter: When a conversation ensues involving such a wide scope of possibilities and an even wider number of players, the decisions reached are always going to lack punch. Every developing and industrialized country must individually implement legislation to help reduce emissions. The developing countries are at the highest risk, but all countries will suffer the effects of climate change.

3) South Africa insist that COP17 was a success, do you agree?

Dan Staniaszek: I read one report that diplomats cannot accept failure so any event must be couched in the language of success.  I guess there is something to be said for keeping Kyoto alive, as it’s the only game in town.

Lisa Zenter: I think whenever you get the world’s leaders to agree to come to the table to discuss such critical issues, it’s a Win.

Cedric Bleuez: Let’s say it is not a failure. It will be possible to answer this question only when in 2015, if a legally binding agreement on pollution is signed by then, including the major polluters of the planet (i.e. China and US).

4) Is this a step forward for the world or backwards?

Lisa Zenter: The media attention and public opinion that surrounds these COP meetings bring much needed focus to the policy that our countries must quickly develop to reduce and reward appropriate fossil-fuel use and behavior.

Dan Staniaszek: Compared to a year ago, a pigeon step forward.  Compared to 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol was initially adopted, it’s a big step backwards.

5) What do you predict would be the effect on businesses?

Cedric Bleuez: Businesses will have to take the Durban deal into account when designing their business strategies beyond 2020 (which is quite a long distance businesswise). By 2020, oil price will probably be much higher than today. This will represent a big driver of business strategies, but also a driver of strong energy efficiency and clean energy policies for governments. It’s already the case today but this trend will increase dramatically.

Lisa Zenter: To comment specifically on the poor performance of Canada at these talks: as a result, we have seen and will continue to see the emergence of provincial and municipal governments and their communities rise up to have a voice above the federal government by implementing plans to reduce emissions and encourage the growth of the green economy.

Allen & York are a leading International Sustainability Recruitment Consultancy, specialising across the Energy, Environmental and Carbon and Climate Change sectors, for more information please visit

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