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To Be or Not to Be: Green Business Leaders' Call to Action

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COPENHAGEN — The time for business leaders to affect the Copenhagen climate change negotiations is now, Tim Flannery, chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council, proclaimed Saturday night while holding up a globe in one hand and a skull in the other. The props might have been a little bizarre if the setting had been different, but Flannery made the statements at the opening of the Copenhagen Climate Council’s “To Be, or Not to Be? New Leadership for a Sustainable Economy,” party held at the Kronborg Castle, commonly called Hamlet’s castle, just outside of Copenhagen.

Speakers and attendees at the event were almost as famous as Shakepeare’s well-known play, and included former President Bill Clinton, Denmark’s Royal Crown Prince Frederik, Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, and the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri. (News Corp head Rupert Murdoch was even expected in the audience, though I didn’t spot him.) The event served as a platform for leaders of the international business community to hash out what they require and desire from an international climate change agreement and also represented a call to the business community to “take the lead” on fighting climate change if the result of the Copenhagen talks end up falling short, as Dong Energy CEO Anders Eldrup said.

The party was bookmarked by two events: the arrival of Frederik, who was mobbed by Danish photographers upon arriving (see photo above), and Clinton’s video address to attendees. Clinton said:

No matter what agreement is made in Copenhagen, the business leaders brought together by the Copenhagen Climate Council and the U.N. Global Compact are key to whether we can actually solve this crisis. There can be no effective response to the climate problem without business innovation, investment, and low-carbon technology and processes.

While there were a variety of press conferences and events at the Bella Center last week looking at financing and business implications of the COP15 negotiations, the Kronborg event was the largest and most high-profile business-focused gathering of the two weeks. The weekend also was the start of the Bright Green Expo, a gathering of Danish and U.S. greentech companies in downtown Copenhagen.

Top priorities that speakers and attendees at Kronborg were looking for out of a Copenhagen agreement included: how to maintain funding for basic green tech research, how to communicate the issue to the mainstream public, how policy and business can collaborate further, and how to continue to implement technology that is available now. “There will be fatigue after these discussions are over,” so business leaders need to focus on keeping this momentum going, said Dong’s Eldrup.

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