International Chamber of Commerce|
The world business organization
Japan Federation of
World Business Council|
for Sustainable Development
Wednesday, December 3rd, 1997
Voluntary actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are being implemented throughout the world. With the necessary flexibility, adaptable to all sectors and regions, they can achieve results more effectively than rigid unilateral regulations. The complexity of the climate change issue requires a full range of responses and does not lend itself to simple, prescribed solutions.
In particular, the business community plays a unique and positive role in addressing the challenge of potential climate change through efficient use of natural resources and energy, the creation of economic growth, the development and dissemination of innovative technology and international technology partnerships. With further promotion and wider participation by all sectors of business and industry, such activities could contribute significantly to mitigating climate change. These industry activities contribute to the realization of sustainable development, which allows the present generation to meet its needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.
Many sectors of society, including the business community, are already engaged in cooperatively taking cost-effective actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions based on the scientific knowledge reported in the Second Assessment report of IPCC which is thought to be the most reliable information at this time even though there still remains uncertainty. As the effect and benefit of mitigating measures will be felt over time, these actions are taken with a long term perspective.
Implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change affects business operations, employees, customers, shareholders and the governments that depend on business for so many societal needs. Many of the tasks of implementing future decisions of governments and responding to subsequent changes in consumption patterns fall to business. In particular, business plays an integral role in the development, commercialization and dissemination of technologies, and in applying its broader experience and technical and managerial expertise to environmental challenges.
Voluntary initiatives are actions undertaken by business and industry to achieve specific goals designed to make progress towards "best practice" appropriate to the different characteristics of each regional, economic and social setting. Voluntary actions take various forms and could involve business sector commitments and negotiated agreements in which governments are partners. Transparency, periodic reporting and review can also be incorporated in voluntary initiatives.
Companies are therefore taking positive and responsible actions through voluntary programmes to address climate change issues. Voluntary programmes should outline actions to be taken so that results can be measured and demonstrated. These initiatives can also contribute to the development of innovative technologies and other options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Governments should be encouraged to incorporate voluntary initiatives in their national climate change policies.
Voluntary actions are most effective if they are undertaken within a general framework developed by governments that allows industry to contribute technological, managerial and entrepreneurial expertise to the fullest extent. Governmental measures (e.g. regulations, economic instruments) should not discourage voluntary and flexible approaches and should not distort trade patterns or inter-industry competitiveness.
Voluntary actions encourage the utilization and dissemination of existing effective technology and contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Effective actions which have been entered into and could be pursued in the future include:
The range of different types of voluntary actions includes: specific company programmes such as the "Climate Wise" programme in the United States; sectoral voluntary actions such as CEFIC's energy efficiency commitments; different types of voluntary agreements among companies or between companies, business associations and governments such as the Keidanren's "Voluntary Action Plan on the Environment", BDI's "Declaration on Global Warming Prevention", Australia's "Greenhouse Challenge"; and nation-wide covenants such as those in force in the Netherlands.
Within the Convention itself, the pilot phase of Activities Implemented Jointly and Joint Implementation programmes are examples of policy frameworks that can create incentives for voluntary programmes of mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions in all regions of the world.
Training and education, especially in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, are essential for the smooth promotion of international technology transfers. They can also be improved through voluntary initiatives.
For voluntary actions to achieve their full potential, it is essential that government, business and the public cooperate, and that policies and measures under international consideration be designed to promote cost-effective, voluntary actions.
It is recommended that the COP(Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) recognize voluntary actions as an effective policy option for implementing the goals set out in Kyoto.