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Government, industry outline bold climate action plans at Houston conference

Date
29 February 2008

HOUSTON - Participants at a conference held on February 27 in Houston, Texas, heard how climate change action plans are moving from the boardroom into the planning room, to permeate everything that companies do - even affecting companies' market performance.

Speakers from companies leading on climate change illustrated what they are doing to accelerate progress towards a low-carbon economy - and exhorted their peers to do more. Speakers also outlined the high cost of inaction and the risk of uncertainty that stems from a lack of planning.

The one-day meeting, held at the Federal Reserve Bank branch in Houston on February 27, was sponsored by The °Climate Group and the Science and Innovation Team at the British Consulate General Houston. The conference, Business and Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities in a Carbon-Constrained World, featured presentations and panel discussions on topics such as the link between shareholder value and carbon footprints, insurance risk of climate change and practical steps companies can take to reduce carbon emissions.

Rick Lazio, Executive Vice President of Global Government Affairs and Public Policy with JPMorgan Chase & Company outlined the many steps his company is taking to reduce its carbon footprint. For example, a program to encourage customers to switch from printed paper statements to electronic copies could save as many as 20 million trees. JPMorgan Chase is also seeking Platinum LEED certification for the renovation of its New York City headquarters, piloting over 30 green LEED certified branches in 2008, is looking to improve the energy efficiency at its many data centers and the efficiency of its retail branches. JP Morgan Chase is even seeking to promote awareness among its own employees about the energy-saving value of recycling and other energy-efficiency habits - not just in the office but in their homes.

Mark Newton, Senior Manager of Environmental Sustainability at Dell Inc. outlined how the company is moving from initial steps that reduced the carbon intensity of its operations to asking its suppliers to do the same - and even looking to improve the energy efficiency of its products.

"Environmental sustainability has become mainstream," said Newton. "We are now looking at how we can take it to the next level. For example, if you get your suppliers to take accountability for their carbon intensity, that alleviates one hidden but very large part of your total footprint."

And even as power demand for products increases with steadily rising performance requirements, Dell is looking to improve overall energy efficiency. "Something as simple as building sleep mode into the design of all IT equipment, and then educating users to enable that feature, can have a dramatic impact."

Many speakers expressed the need for greater action on climate change issues, praising those who are leading the way and exhorting others to be more proactive.

James Cameron, Vice Chairman of Climate Change Capital and moderator of the conference, pointed out that creating a collective plan does not mean waiting for everyone to agree. "There is no competitive advantage in inaction, yet we still engage in political games as there were. Texas does not benefit by waiting for California to do something first, nor does the UK benefit by waiting for Germany to act first."

Countries that have acted early are securing competitive advantage. Denmark pioneered the development of commercial wind power in the 1970s, and today almost half the wind turbines in the world are made by Danish manufacturers - an industry that brings in about 3 billion Euros and employs 20,000 people.

Mark Way, Senior Vice President, Sustainability & Emerging Risk Management with Swiss Re, believes the cost of inaction will be considerably higher than the costs of taking effective measures to tackle climate change. Way outlined how the insurance industry paid out approximately US$66 billion in claims from Hurricane Katrina alone in 2005. "To help reduce the impact of a more severe climate, we need to work towards mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and to making society more resilient via enhanced building codes and intelligent zoning practices. Climate change should be considered by the insurance industry as both a risk but also an opportunity to provide innovative products to help clients to deal with the risks associated with a more severe climate," Way said.

"I think we're at a tipping point," said JPMorgan Chase's Lazio. "But, we need leadership. The business community needs to push this issue, to work proactively with government to create policies that are intelligent and market-oriented. We do not believe that we should wait for India and China, we need to start moving now."

Full details of the one-day program can be found here. A report on the event, conclusions papers and copies of the presentations delivered at the conference will also be posted soon.

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For further information about The °Climate Group, please contact:

Neal McGrath Communications Director, North America
Tel: + 1-646-233-0554
nmcgrath@theclimategroup.org

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