Cape Town business prepares for COP17

On 22 May 2011, in News, by Andrew Bennett

Business in Cape Town is encouraged to engage with the issues of climate change and sustainability as South Africa prepares to host the 17th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17) in November in Durban.

Representatives from business think tank Accelerate Cape Town’s member companies, from various business sectors in the Western Cape, and environmental organisations, were briefed about COP17 and debated the implications of climate change for business, at a business breakfast in the Foreshore on Thursday. The event was hosted by Accelerate Cape Town and sustainability consultancy icologie, and sponsored by KPMG.

Guy Lundy, CEO of Accelerate Cape Town, stressed that sustainability is a key part of the delivery of Vision 2030 – the business vision of Cape Town becoming a global African city, and a city of inspiration and innovation by 2030.  “A successful city does not only thrive economically.  It is crucial that Cape Town continues to strive to be green and beautiful alongside its economic development, if it is to succeed globally over the next 20 years”, he said.

Keynote speaker Neil Morris, director of  Climate Change and Sustainability Services at KPMG, said it was crucial for business to talk to government in the lead-up to COP17 as this conference had greater potential to have practical outcomes than COP15 in Copenhagen and COP16 in Cancun.

“We have to get reality and political agendas on the same page. To get COP17 to work, government and business must work together.”

He continued: “The world is moving towards a low-carbon development path and it’s here to stay. A fundamental transformation of our energy systems and our energy use will be required. Businesses operating in developed as well as in developing countries can’t ignore these trends and need to prepare,” said Morris.

“New opportunities are emerging for low-carbon investment in developing countries such as South Africa.  There is a signal of renewed confidence to investors in carbon markets, but uncertainty remains on the shape of new market mechanisms.”

Andy le May, managing director of icologie, pointed out the opportunities available to business to stay in step with the demands of an increasingly eco-conscious and empowered consumer base.  By becoming educated about sustainability and implementing sustainable business practices, such as using energy and water saving practices, business can save money, and reduce the harm done to the planet.

Le May also encouraged the audience to familiarise themselves with what would be happening at COP 17, and to become part of the solution.   “Business could start exploring  where mitigation and adaptation activity can create economic growth and jobs, and also work on engaging with government on subsidies and tax breaks for sustainable products and business.”

Sheryl Ozinsky, a consultant to the City of Cape Town on becoming a “climate smart city”, encouraged business to back the city’s Energy & Climate Action Plan and the city’s Climate Change Coalition. The coalition, which is comprised of 22 organisations, plans to run an intensive campaign leading up to and post COP17.

She also encouraged everyone to visit to learn how they could save money and conserve energy by using electricity sparingly.

“Business as usual poses significant risks to our city. It leads to higher energy expenditure, energy price hikes, and could mean that the city loses its competitive advantage in attracting investors. We need the ambitious implementation of electricity efficiency, transport efficiency and renewable energy supply to mitigate these risks.”

Accelerate Cape Town, in partnership with icologie and KPMG, hosts the Green Champions business breakfast series to engage its member companies on key issues of sustainability, climate change and environmentally responsible business practices in Cape Town.

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