Skip to main Content

Harry Verhaar: What pathway and value should COP18 really create?

04 December 2012
Harry Verhaar: What pathway and value should COP18 really create?

COP18 takes place in Doha, Qatar, from November 26 to December 7, 2012. Here, Harry Verhaar, Senior Director Energy and Climate Change, Philips Lighting, blogs about the pathway and value that COP18 should create.

As Heads of State have pushed the target date for an new international Climate Treaty towards 2015 (see for a brief history of country approaches on climate change this 83 second video) this conference has become sort of an intermediate COP.

The main purpose is to ‘negotiate how to negotiate’ towards a treaty by 2015 that in itself goes into force in 2020.

Despite great admiration for all the dedicated and willing UN officials, a growing part of our population (especially the youth – tomorrow’s leaders and workforce), climate scientists, sub-national governments and pro-active businesses, are saying we do not have the luxury of such time scales.

Perhaps one of the design failures of these global political processes is that these are called Climate Negotiations that with current political climate turn into a process of give and take, and endless discussions on how to divide a cake of ever diminishing value.

Rather we should rename the process Climate Collaboration, aimed at creating value. And the good news is that beyond the – urgently required – carbon reductions, a largely unlocked potential of value is waiting to be explored and harvested.

Many, if not all, sustainable innovations not only reduce our carbon footprints, but also reduce our energy bills and most of all have the potential to improve people’s lives (a stunning win/win/win) by making the buildings and cities where we work, live and play more comfortable, productive and safer at the same time.

Thus we might be better off if we look at ‘COP’ not as a Low-Carbon Pathway, but rather as a ‘Pathway to Prosperity’ (P2P), certainly something that across the world all of us are trying to find in these challenging economic times.

This brings the goal beyond discussions about the targets that nations should be aiming for with regard to resource efficiency and carbon emissions, towards an exchange of ideas about what the private sector and regions and cities can do and are doing toward this end.

It may create the opportunity to push the action agenda forward and talk about specifics such as urban infrastructure, smart buildings, solutions based on new technology and intelligent networks, and the tremendous potential that lies in public-private partnering.

As we continue to measure progress based on GDP, progress in the global negotiations track will remain cumbersome (as there is so little extra GDP to be identified and divided!).

Once we mirror objectives and progress on what really matters, i.e. quality-of-life, social equity, and longer-term return on investment, we may have the recipe for acceleration.

Though we are at a point in which heads of state and national politicians are struggling to agree on anything, serious strides are already being made by business and sub-national governments. And that is one issue I hope to focus on this week: the extraordinary momentum in the private sector where best practices are becoming common practices.


If you enjoyed reading this, look out for articles by Damian Ryan, our Senior Policy Manager who is writing news and analysis and live-tweeting throughout COP18, and providing a more in-depth post-COP Briefing after the events. Keep up to date on our website and by following him on Twitter during COP18. 

In the run up to and during Doha we are also posting a series of articles featuring analysis from our teams in the USEurope, India and Australia on their nations' COP negotiating positions.

Follow a live feed from COP18 below.

Latest from Twitter