By Helle Bank Jorgensen
Published December 14, 2009
Do you receive an electric bill?
This is one of the many questions I’ve heard in Copenhagen, where I am attending COP15, the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference. In a sense, the work being done this week in Copenhagen is really about saving on the Earth’s electric — and water — bill.
The mood here is one of hope and optimism, but many feel that the delegates are talking more than they are acting.
Representatives from all over the world have gathered to discuss how we — as one planet representing many countries and interests — should move forward to address global warming. And, while the official negotiations are being conducted by the delegates, there are some interesting side events showcasing ways in which business is harnessing the power of technology to address the effects of climate change and create a low carbon future.
Over the weekend, I attended the Bright Green Expo, sponsored by the Confederation of Danish Industry, Denmark’s largest business organization. The expo provided a venue for more than 170 of the world’s leading companies from 19 countries to demonstrate cutting-edge climate solutions.
A variety of speakers, including the Danish Crown Prince and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, spoke about the role that technology and business innovation will play to save precious natural resources, create jobs and drive economic growth.
The impact of private sector innovation goes beyond just the companies at the expo. Each company works with a supply chain that helps them deliver products and solutions. Additionally, much of the technology I saw on display addresses pollution and health issues associated with older technology. But, as with anything, there are challenges. In the case of companies developing technology and solutions to combat climate change, the biggest challenge is finding sufficient financing to bring new solutions to market.
China’s investment in renewable energy — particularly solar power — was also a big topic of conversation at the expo. China has committed to raising the share of renewable energy (excluding hydroelectric power) in its energy mix to 6 percent, from the current 1.5 percent. This will certainly drive business investment. Many other countries, including our hosts, Denmark, are also investing heavily in green technology.
While business solutions and technology are only parts of a much more complicated puzzle to help drive down the energy consumption (and energy bill) of our planet, there is clearly a role for business to play. It is with a business perspective that I’ve come to Copenhagen and I look forward to sharing my observations throughout the week.
Helle Bank Jorgensen is a partner and sustainability and climate change leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers U.S.