Email sent to: vanbergen.barend @ kpmg.nl|
Cc: Timothy P Flynn; Ben Verwaayen; ben.verwaayen @ bt.com; Eric.Heymann @ db.com; gerard.rijk @ mail.ing.nl; Ben Wientjes
Subject: Sustainability and climate change - "Sustainable Prosoperity: Taking on the Global Challenge" conference
Dear Mr Van Bergen,
You write that "The list of reports is not exhaustive, but it constitutes an informed selection that provides for the first time an aggregate and quantification of expert views...".
You are the lead author of the "Climate Changes Your Business" report, which is in fact a survey and summary of 50 reports that "address the business and economic impacts of climate change", combined with the result of "11 interviews with experts".
I would like to submit that expertise is a relative concept. Whilst your environment and the companies listed in the report provide sufficient information about the background of your report material, it would have been highly informative to know the names and backgrounds of your interviewees.
The interviewees that are cited in your report are firmly embedded in corporate thought patterns.
- Ben Verwaayen, CEO of British Telecom Group: "Business must become green to grow" (Mr Verwaayen either has not understood that the earth and its resources are finite or he believes that one can grow immaterially, with thin air as raw materials.)
- Eric Heymann, transport analyst at Deutsche Bank: "Efficiency is the key for the future of companies in the transport sector".
- Gerard Rijk, a food and beverages analyst, ING Wholesale Banking, The Netherlands: The volatility of input prices and margins are the main risks.
- Bernard Wientjes, Chairman of the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers (VNO-VNW): "Business can be the solution" (This is neglecting the Stern report's statement that climate change is the result of market failure. Politics, democracy must set the direction for a different pathway into the future.)
Habitual is that risks are being expressed in financial terms. The Stern report was criticised for this, notably for the discount rates that were applied.
We would argue that the risks are more material/environmental than financial because ultimately money always represents an obligation to provide goods and services. Once natural (non-renewable) resources run out, no amount of ledger surpluses can buy the resources that are no longer on the market.
That will be the case with - for example - fossil energy, a normal climate, agricultural soils, space to live (dry feet), ground water, rain forests, fish stocks, biodiversity, and non-polluted environments.
Experience demonstrates that corporate views are insufficiently related to overall environmental facts and developments, notably the WBCSD and even WWF, who both still believe in "sustainable economic growth" on a finite and overburdened planet (sic!).
At the end of your report you note that "Many people now believe that the days of unlimited energy use and and resource extraction are over and that economic and consumption growth may have natural limits."
Actually and factually, Mr Van Bergen, natural limits have always existed. We have started to dramatically overshoot the earth's carrying capacity since 1750. Present exuberant consumption and the 6.7 billion world population were only possible because of the depletion of non-renewable resources and fossil energy stocks. This allowed us to temporarily stretch the limits.
It is now only a matter of years, maybe a few decades, before we are facing the combined results of resource depletion and pollution, the latter including climate change since greenhouse gases are a pollutant.
After the onset of Peak Oil, industrial and agricultural production will start declining, first slowly and then with increasing speeds. Together with the effects of weather extremes the present globalisation will be rolled back. Communities will again become dependent on local production, eliminating motorised transportation almost completely.
The real risks, Mr Van Bergen, lie in riots and resource wars as a result of increasing resource scarcities.
Given the continued Business As Usual policies of the BPE Compact, the leaders in Business, Politics and the discipline of Economics, these risks represent a certainty. It is impossible to avoid the sketched catastrophic developments as long as the BPE Compact pushes for more economic growth.
The next time you write a similar report you may be well advised to consult environmental scientists in order to balance the biased and insufficiently informed business views.
In this regard you may also be interested in reading our recent mail to ExxonMobil on the ExxonMobil advertisement in the Financial Times of 6 June 2008: "more energy. fewer emissions. moving forward means delivering them both" at www.ecoglobe.ch/energy/e/exxo8606.htm
I intend attending a part of the upcoming NetImpact conference "Sustainable Prosperity: Taking on the Global Challenge" in Geneva and I hope that we will have the opportunity to exchange thoughts. From the above you will have understood that the challenge is not one of prosperity but of survival.
With kind regards ... Helmut Lubbers
Helmut E Lubbers Ingénieur, MSocSc, DipEcol,
editor of www.ecoglobe.ch and ecoglobe.org
ecology discovery foundation ecoglobe
Wellington New Zealand and Geneva Switzerland
14 bd Carl-Vogt 1205 Genève
+41 22 3212320 helmut @ ecoglobe . ch
"more energy. fewer emissions. moving forward means delivering them both"
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