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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Trans-Atlantic Contrasts - Complementary Approaches

Yesterday I spoke at the CERES Conference 2008 in Boston. It was an excellent event. I especially enjoyed a discussion between Andrew Savitz (Triple Bottom Line author), Jeff Swartz (Timberland) and Gary Hirshberg (Stonyfield Farms) that was both entertaining and inspiring.

I spoke on a panel organized jointly between CERES and the British Consulate in Boston. Our topic was the catchy “Operating in a Carbon-constrained Business Environment: US Scenarios, UK lessons”. The panel included Confederation of British Industry (CBI), National Grid, First Climate and University of Massachusetts and was based on responses to the recent CBI climate change task force paper "Climate Change - Everyone's business". I have a pride in what BT and other British companies have achieved in addressing climate change and the panel was made up almost completely of Europeans, however it was notable the extent to which panelists recognized and complemented the contribution of American companies to progress in tackling climate change. In response to a question from the audience on what could be done to make the American Chamber of Commerce and similar organizations as supportive of climate change action as the CBI, Bjorn Fischer of First Climate reminded everyone that carbon emissions trading had been initiated in the USA, and Rhian Chilcott, Director of the Washington Office of the CBI, commented that the focus of American Trade Associations on technology was a welcomed and necessary part of the solution.

I think both continents have a lot to learn from the contrasts. The European emphasis on climate change as the issue and the expectation that we will need to change our behaviors and lifestyles to mitigate. The American emphasis on energy security as the issue and that technology will allow us to tackle the problem while maintaining our lifestyles. As an Brit who has lived in the USA for many years I am sure the right answer will fall somewhere between the two.

You can see a brief summary of the event on the web site of the British Consulate here.

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