Businesses are quietly confident that the upcoming negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP15) will be successful, but believe that the US Government's position is the biggest hurdle the talks face, according to a recent Norton Rose survey.
An overwhelming 72 per cent of respondents to The Hopes for Copenhagen survey - which canvassed the opinions of 114 individuals involved in the environmental, sustainability and climate change issues in their business -believe the negotiations will result in a "compromised success".
However, not everyone is convinced - with a sizeable 26 per cent of respondents saying they believe the negotiations will fail.
Interestingly, the majority opinion stands in contrast to the view of Allens Arthur Robinson partner Grant Anderson, who told Lawyers Weekly on Wednesday that the successful negotiation of a legally binding agreement at Copenhagen would be "impossible" (see story).
Meanwhile, the importance of the outcome of Copenhagen was almost universally accepted by survey respondents, with 94 per cent saying the negotiations could have a "significant" or "very significant" effect on combating climate change. Further, 60 per cent of respondents felt climate change should be a more significant priority than the global economic crisis, and 79 per cent of respondents said that an unsuccessful outcome at Copenhagen would have a detrimental effect on business.
Businesses were also overwhelmingly positive about the prospect of a move to a lower carbon economy, with 96 per cent saying they believed there were business opportunities in their country as a result of the drive to reduce emissions, and 92 per cent seeing business opportunities within their own organisations.
When it came to the major obstacles the negotiations face, the US stood out as the recalcitrant child, with 70 per cent of respondents saying that the US Government's position on the negotiations was the most significant barrier to an agreement being reached.
Anthony Hobley, head of Norton Rose's climate change and carbon finance team, said that the overriding insight gained from the survey was that those tasked with leading the Copenhagen negotiations were not sufficiently consulting with the private sector, which will ultimately fork out much of the cost of tackling the issue.
"If an agreement, in whatever form, post Copenhagen is to be successful it will require the private sector to provide up to around 85% of the funds necessary to tackle climate change," he said.
"Whilst business is committed to combating climate change, the negotiators are not adequately engaging with them to ensure the regimes that result from the negotiations are sufficiently attractive to private sector finance. It is therefore imperative at this stage to listen and actively involve business in the negotiating process.
"Without the business community mobilising sufficient funds any agreement will not be capable of being effective and the necessary global reduction in emissions will not be achieved".