Recent climate science scandals have led to increased scepticism among business about the benefits of carbon emissions reductions, as has the lack of perceived progress at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December, according to report out today.
In the latest annual sustainability research series ‘After Copenhagen: Business And Climate Change’ from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), half of the executives (52 per cent) surveyed agreed that conflicting evidence on climate change meant the jury was still out on how serious this issue is. Rather worryingly for Governments that need to convince business to tackle carbon emissions in order to meet carbon reduction targets, just 31 per cent disagreed.
Both ‘climategate’ and ‘glaciergate’ have called into question specific details within the body of climate change evidence. In the case of ‘climategate’, scientist from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (CRU) were accused of manipulating climate change data after hundreds of their emails were ‘stolen’ by hackers and published online. ‘Glaciergate’, meanwhile, refers to the retraction of the claim by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that there was a “very high” chance of glaciers disappearing from the Himalayas by 2035.
The EIU global survey of 542 executives, who were polled online in December and January – after the closure of the Copenhagen summit – also found that corporate progress on carbon reduction over the past year has stalled with executives less confident than ever in governments’ ability to deliver a level regulatory playing field following the perceived failures of COP15. Nearly half (46 per cent) of those polled said they were now more pessimistic about the ability of their government to deal with climate change, especially in an international context.
Dividing line between climate change ‘sceptics’ and ‘believers’
And while, the research found that almost half of those surveyed (45 per cent) still saw the business benefit of carbon emission reduction as a way to gain competitive advantage by cutting costs, it also found a clear dividing line between those executives who doubt the science on climate change and those who believe it.
Both groups were equally likely to have implemented energy efficiency initiatives in their businesses to cut costs, but far more companies (59 per cent) with ‘believers’ saw carbon reduction as a way to obtain advantage through new products and services – and more than twice as many have improved the environmental footprint of existing products and services.
“There’s essentially a divide in the marketplace,” said James Watson, the editor of the report. “One group of companies is actively moving further along the carbon journey we outlined, while another group is unsure whether this should be a key focus. This rise in scepticism means a tougher sell when trying to make the case for environmental projects within a business.”