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COP17: ‘Pinstripe greens’ should encourage government leaders

29 November 2011
COP17: ‘Pinstripe greens’ should encourage government leaders

By Jim Walker, International Programmes and Strategy Director, The Climate Group.

As the focus of those supporting and opposing action on climate change again turns to the international negotiations, it’s important to remind ourselves that a global agreement on climate is as much about unleashing economic opportunity as it is about apportioning responsibilities and investment commitments.  

The Financial Times recently profiled a number of 'Pinstripe Greens' - business leaders pursuing clean technology and related investment and information services. The article showed it’s not only possible to profit from carbon reduction but that the seeds of a Clean Revolution are already well underway.

Michael Liebreich (Bloomberg New Energy Finance), clean tech investors Vinod Khosla and Ben Goldsmith, Dr. Zhengrong Shi (Suntech), Dale Vince (Ecotricity), Lord Browne of Madingley (Riverstone Holdings) and Pedro Moura Costa (EcoSecurities) were all listed as accruing increasing wealth from new clean ventures.

The faces are familiar to us - Bloomberg and Suntech are both The Climate Group members and Lord Browne and Dr Shi are International Leadership Council members - and it’s encouraging to see continued exposure for them. 

The spotlight is particularly apt in light of UNFCCC Secretary General Christina Figueres’ call for business leaders to take a lead in the run-up to Durban. Speaking at the Lisbon Council in Brussels she said that, “the willingness of governments to move forward is severely handicapped unless business provides the impetus. Help us break the vicious cycle [and] empower new growth, create jobs in new sectors, help alleviate poverty and stabilize climate at the same time.”

She continued: “Progressive business has the power to change both the consumer and supplier behavior and turn it into powerful voter support that gives policy makers a clear space in which to act.”

This appeal frames Durban, where the need for global agreement is critical, but where it is also clear that leadership needs to come from other places, including proactive businesses, states and cities around the world.

For business leaders to put positive pressure on the international process we also need practical examples of success. One of Figueres’ predecessors, the late Joke Waller-Hunter, carried a copy of our 2007 report Carbon Down Profits Up, drawing on it for evidence of organizations reducing carbon and boosting profit at the same time.

We continue to dig out the best success stories to share with you (to be published at  I hope the media spotlight continues to shine on this new generation of leaders and that their successes fuel appetite for a lasting global policy framework.

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