Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Stigson warns mistrust between business and government is hampering low carbon economy

Head of World Business Council for Sustainable Development warns poor communication between politicians and private sector is blocking the development of effective green policies
Cath Everett, BusinessGreen, 16 Mar 2010

A lack of trust between business and government is blocking the development of effective solutions for tackling climate change, according to the head of a leading sustainability body.
Bjorn Stigson, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, said in his opening keynote at the Base conference in London earlier today that mutual mistrust was hampering the development of a low carbon economy.
"Most resources and management skills are in business, but business can't deploy them fast enough unless the right government organisations and frameworks are in place," he said. "We have to take action together."
Stigson said that already low levels of co-operation between the political and business spheres had worsened in recent years as large multinational companies "scaled back" lobbying activities as result of the recession. He observed that as a result there was now a "capacity problem" within many businesses that no longer employed personnel who were able to act as " translators" between the two worlds.
He also accused businesses of failing to create a coherent vision of what they wanted to see from environmental and climate change policies. "If you want to influence this as businesses, you have to be clearer about what you can contribute and what you need," he said. "The message now is very incoherent and there's a free range to interpretation."
Governments are taking a similarly incoherent approach, according to Stigson, who said that despite the emergence of new green legislation and taxes in different countries there was still no "shared vision" on how to enhance improve an economy's sustainability.
However, he argued there was evidence that a "green race" was underway as different countries look to transform their economies.
He noted that while Japan is the current leader in energy efficient solutions as a result of action taken after the oil shocks of the 1970s, the European Union now has a 40 per cent share of the clean tech market. It also committed to increase research and development funding in the area by 300 per cent last October in order to try and boost its share of the sector still further. Similarly, the US has pumped billions of dollars into clean tech industries through its economic stimulus package.
But Stigson predicted that it is ultimately likely to be China that will win the race, with India taking the runners-up position. He said that China has made it clear that it wants to be a leading exporter of green technology and made clean tech a key component of its five-year economic growth plan as a result, while India continues to boast the huge work force and low cost base that will help it dominate any labour intensive clean tech sectors.