Syndicate content

private sector

How civil society and others achieved the Paris Climate Agreement

Duncan Green's picture

Michael JacobsA brilliant analysis by Michael Jacobs of the success factors behind last year’s Paris Climate Agreement appeared in Juncture, IPPR’s quarterly journal  recently. Jacobs unpacks the role of civil society (broadly defined) and political leadership. Alas, it’s over 4,000 words long, so as a service to my attention deficit colleagues in aid and development, here’s an abbreviated version (about a third the length, but if you have time, do please read the original).

The international climate change agreement reached in Paris in December 2015 was an extraordinary diplomatic achievement. It was also a remarkable display of the political power of civil society.

Following the failed Copenhagen conference in 2009, an informal global coalition of NGOs, businesses, academics and others came together to define an acceptable outcome to the Paris conference and then applied huge pressure on governments to agree to it. Civil society effectively identified the landing ground for the agreement, then encircled and squeezed the world’s governments until, by the end of the Paris conference, they were standing on it. Four key forces made up this effective alliance.

The scientific community: Five years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was in trouble. Relentless attacks from climate sceptics and a number of apparent scandals – the ‘climategate’ emails, dodgy data on melting Himalayan glaciers, allegations surrounding its chairman – had undermined its credibility. But the scientists fought back, subjecting their work to even more rigorous peer-review and hiring professional communications expertise for the first time. The result was the IPCC’s landmark Fifth Assessment Report, which contained two powerful central insights.

First, the IPCC report introduced the concept of a ‘carbon budget’: the total amount of carbon dioxide the earth’s atmosphere can absorb before the 2°C temperature goal is breached. At present emission rates, that would be used up in less than 30 years. So cutting emissions cannot wait.

The other insight was that these emissions have to be reduced until they reach zero. The IPCC’s models are clear: the physics of global warming means that to halt the world’s temperature rise, the world will have to stop producing greenhouse gas emissions altogether.

The economic community: But it was a second set of forces that really changed the argument. Since the financial crash in 2008–2009, cutting emissions had fallen down the priority lists of the world’s finance ministries. The old orthodoxy that environmental policy was an unaffordable cost to the economy reasserted itself. A new argument was required.

Tackling inequality is a game changer for business and private sector development (which is why most of them are ignoring it)

Duncan Green's picture

Oxfam’s private sector adviser Erinch Sahan is thinking through the implications of inequality for the businesses he interacts with.

Mention inequality to a business audience and one of two things happens. They recoil in discomfort, or reinterpret the term – as social sustainability or doing more business with people living in poverty. Same goes for the private sector development professionals in the aid community (e.g. the inclusive business crowd).

A good example is the UN Global Compact, which steers companies on how to implement the SDGs. They completely side-step the difficult implications of inequality on business and redefine the inequality SDG as boiling down to social sustainability or human rights / women’s empowerment goal. All good things that we at Oxfam also fight for, but these can all happen simultaneously with increasing concentration of income and wealth amongst the richest – i.e. rising inequalityWe know that rising inequality is one of the great threats to our society and economy. So why is business and the aid world so uncomfortable with tackling it head on?

Man picks tea leaves at Kitabi Tea Processing FacilityInequality is a relative rather than an absolute measure. This often makes it a zero-sum game – to spread wealth and income more equally, someone probably has to lose. But the intersection of business, sustainability and development has become locked into an exclusive focus on win-win approaches where there are no trade-offs and everyone gets their cake and eats it too. Addressing inequality often hits the bottom line – meaning changes to the prices paid to farmers, wages paid to workers, taxes paid to government and prices charged to consumers. But there is hope. Through a new lens (or metric) that should drive how business addresses inequality: share of value.

Don’t confuse this with Creating Shared Value, which is focused on the win-win (without commenting on how the created value is shared). What I’m proposing is a measure that compares businesses on how they share value with workers, farmers and low-income consumers. In fact the concept dates back to the original principles underpinning the fair trade movement some decades ago.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.


Middle-Class Heroes: The Best Guarantee of Good Governance
Foreign Affairs
The two economic developments that have garnered the most attention in recent years are the concentration of massive wealth in the richest  one percent of the world’s population and the tremendous, growth-driven  decline in extreme poverty in the developing world, especially in China. But just as important has been the emergence of large middle classes in developing countries around the planet. This phenomenon—the result of more than two decades of nearly continuous fast-paced global economic growth—has been good not only for economies but also for governance. After all, history suggests that a large and secure middle class is a solid foundation on which to build and sustain an effective, democratic state. Middle classes not only have the wherewithal to finance vital services such as roads and public education through taxes; they also demand regulations, the fair enforcement of contracts, and the rule of law more generally—public goods that create a level social and economic playing field on which all can prosper.
 

Humanitarian reform: What's on - and off - the table
IRIN News
As pressure mounts to come up with concrete proposals for the future of humanitarian aid, horse-trading and negotiations have begun in earnest behind the scenes in the lead-up to the first ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), to be held in Istanbul in May. The release this week of the UN secretary-general’s vision for humanitarian reforms marks one of the last stages in a multi-year process that has seen consultations with some 23,000 people around the world on how to improve crisis response. (See: Editor’s Take: The UN Secretary General’s vision for humanitarian reform)  Hundreds of ideas are floating around. Which are now rising to the top? And which are being pushed to the side? Here’s our take on the emerging trends:
 

Beware the Carrotmob

Naniette Coleman's picture

"It is true that economic and social objectives have long been seen as distinct and often competing.  But this is a false dichotomy; it represents an increasingly obsolete perspective in a world of open, knowledge-based competition. Companies do not function in isolation from the society around them."

Michael Porter and Mark Kramer, "The Competitive Advantage of Corporate Philanthropy"
Harvard Business Review, 2002

Please, hold the door, the Carrotmob is coming. If you are among the un-indoctrinated, please allow me to introduce you to the Carrotmob. “Carrotmob is a type of consumer activism in which businesses compete at how socially responsible they can be, and then a network of consumers spends money to support whichever business makes the strongest offer.” According to Brian Byrnes, regular contributor to CNN.com and author of “Argentine 'Carrotmob' stick up for green business” they are a global movement that is built on the 'carrot-or-the-stick' concept. Carrotmob rewards -- rather than punishes -- small businesses for employing sustainable practices. Essentially, a Carrotmob is the opposite of a boycott.”  Although the Carrotmob operates in the commercial sphere, they are working to increase, so called, public goods with other stakeholders in their community. Activities like those undertaken by the Carrotmob are an example of creative coalition building and help to begin to address one of the challenges of fostering a collective identity, maintaining both internal and external political efficacy.

Shining a Spotlight on Public Private Partnership

Caroline Jaine's picture

I couldn’t have been further away from Sudan last week - sipping fine green tea in a London private members’ club - but Sudan was one topic of conversation.  I stumbled upon an organisation about to set up a development bank in the South of the country and, with a keen understanding of the operational environment, the focus will be on microfinance.  Our discussion was just one of many I have had lately about the crucial role business plays in development and as I dip my toe (or ear) into the world of development communications, I meet more and more people who (like me) have Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart’s cherished book “Fixing Failed States” tucked into their coats.  Paddy Doherty of the above-mentioned development bank sums it up simply - “profitability ensures sustainability”.