The first part of the UN climate talks that wrapped up last week in Marrakesh, Morocco coincided with the U.S. presidential election. According to Norine Kennedy, USCIB’s vice president for energy and environment, who was in Marrakesh for the duration, Donald Trump’s election as the next U.S. president delivered a jolt to negotiators, who suddenly were faced with the prospect of a possible U.S. pullout from the historic Paris Climate Agreement agreed last December. But negotiators rallied around the agreement, which entered into force earlier this month, presenting a challenge to the new U.S. administration come January 20.
As COP22 – the 22nd Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – was coming to a close, Kennedy presented on business perspectives on implementing the Paris Agreement and the role of business in nationally determined contributions (NDCs) at an official COP22 side-event on November 18. The side-event was organized by the Major Economies Business Forum (BizMEF), of which USCIB is a member. Kennedy participated on a panel with other experts and representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Turkish business association Tüsiad, the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, Japan’s business group Keidanren, and the Global CCS Institute.
USCIB actively works with the Major Economies Business Forum (BizMEF), developing global business recommendations on the top-line issues that matter to U.S. business. Just one week prior to the official COP22 side-event, USCIB, through BizMEF, partnered with Morocco’s preeminent business group, General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises (CGEM) to hold a Business Dialogue with government and UNFCCC secretariat representatives. This Dialogue brought together over seventy participants from business, governments, and UN agencies and was a crucial platform for Kennedy to present USCIB’s report on NDC’s.
Kennedy has represented USCIB and its members in UN climate deliberations since 1993. The common thread for USCIB, she said, has always been the importance of U.S. business as solution providers and the need to have U.S. economic interests represented and furthered in international decision-making on climate change. “The climate challenge is itself a long-term phenomenon that impacts regulations and energy access in all countries where U.S. companies operate, and which will also offer new market and innovation opportunities for U.S. business,” she said. USCIB intends to provide continuity and thought leadership on climate policy in the broader context of sustainability, to the administration of President-elect Trump and to future administrations. “We intend to help U.S. government decision makers and the UN system to develop policy frameworks that best address climate change while also facilitating cross-border trade, investment and innovation by U.S. companies,” noted Kennedy.
The Paris Agreement is not a finished product – the broad outlines and goals are indeed established, but key details on a number of critical issues to business, such as the role of various national and regional carbon markets, the tracking and updating of national pledges, and how technology innovation and potential liability for climate-related damages might be tackled are still works in progress. There is still an essential role for U.S. business to stay in touch with our government delegation to offer views and suggestions on thorny issues, and provide examples and other relevant information on business initiatives.
The next two years will bring multiple fast-moving – by UN standards – decision-making deliberations across a number of key issues, and USCIB will continue to track those that most directly impact our members. USCIB will focus on ways to carve out a clear role for business input and representation in the process. Kennedy emphasized: “We consider it fundamental, at both the national and international levels, for policy makers to consult with business on the economic and environmental aspects of climate policies. There is no doubt that the Paris Agreement will affect every business sector, across all types of commercial activity, in both the near and the long terms. So preserving and improving the UN system’s accountability and transparency, and creating new opportunities for the private sector to contribute, this is USCIB’s bottom line.”