Sarah Green column

There is no doubt that climate change will be the most hotly debated issue in coming years.

There is no doubt that climate change will be the most hotly debated issue in coming years. As Tony Blair stated at the publication of the Stern Review, "this is the most important report on the future published by the Government in our time in office".

The time for debate about whether human activity is changing the climate has passed. The science is clear. The challenge now is for the business community, Government and society as a whole to decide how to respond.

This poses a challenge to business, as a major source of emissions, but it also presents significant opportunities. Business needs to be at the heart of the debate to ensure it can play its role effectively alongside other key players.

To ensure CBI are leading this agenda, a powerful task force of key business people and chaired by BT chief executive Ben Verwaayen, has been established to set the agenda on how business tackles climate change. It will produce a report later this year with wide-ranging recommendations for action.

The risks presented by climate change are too big to ignore. The business community needs to take action which is urgent, concrete and measurable, and the CBI has assembled a formidable team of business leaders to set the agenda. The challenge for the task force is to identify solutions which address the issues of climate change without harming the competitiveness of British business.

The task force takes as its starting point last autumn's watershed Stern Review on the economic impact of climate change. Its terms of reference are to establish the role business can play in tackling climate change and recommend the actions that are necessary to enable business to make that contribution.

The group will come to its own independent conclusions and will make recommendations to the UK Government, individual businesses and the CBI itself. This is one of the most senior groups ever assembled by the CBI to tackle an issue of fundamental concern.

The Stern Review adds up to a powerful argument for collective action by the nations of the world. Provided we act with sufficient speed, we will not have to make a choice between averting climate change and promoting growth and investment.

This will require an international partnership between the public and private sectors, working alongside civil society and with individuals.

It will be one of the great challenges of the 21st Century, and the difference between our success or failure will affect the lives of generations to come. CBI will ensure it plays its part.

Sarah Green is regional director of CBI North-East.


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