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The Business of Green at COP15

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Today in Copenhagen, the world's governmental delegates stepped aside a bit as global business took center stage. With the Bright Green expo* and trade event starting on Saturday morning, commercial enterprises and dealmakers started their own negotiations today.

What became clear is the interdependence of a UN Framework on Climate Change global treaty and business investment in green technologies. Business demands predictability, ROI, future forecasts. Without a firm foundation, it's hard for corporations to invest in green tech.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke flew into Copenhagen this morning and immediately kicked-off a meeting sponsored by the American Chamber of Commerce. Companies like GE, Lockheed, Duke Energy, Honeywell, and FEDEX (part of the U.S. Commercial Service) attended. Smaller businesses like Solazyme which makes crude oil and diesel fuel from algae were on hand. Gridwise Alliance also attended to make the case for smart grid.

Later this morning, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development held all-day meetings linking global development dollars and corporate investment to carbon reduction. Development agencies such as the World Bank and companies like Dow Chemical, Alstom power and Vestas wind were guiding some of the discussion.

Two events with powerful agendas:The World Business Council on Sustainable Development billed its event as for CEO's only.

"Government and Business have got to work together," said Steen Rislgaard, CEO of Novozymes, which is a biomass energy producer. "For this to fly, there has to be a new paradigm for lower carbon emissions. The UN really needs to resolve the framework conditions. Business will take care of the rest." Rilsgaard is something of a business rockstar in Denmark and came to the sustainable development business meeting.

The World Council publishes white papers. One of them on low carbon value chains for consumer goods and CPG companies noted: "Discussions on climate change do not commonly include fast moving consumer goods. However, the sector is large accounting for over One Trillion U.S. Dollars. Its activity and supply chains reach nearly everyone on the planet - and often reach back to sensitive areas like agriculture and rainforests."

During break-out brainstorming sessions, companies like GE discussed how business thinks about investing in the real world. Ann Condon of GE said: "We have to define the risks. When you have a body like the World Bank involved in loans, there is risk reduction to have governmental involvement." While there are no guarantees, having political will to succeed can help a developing country and a company make commitments.

Katherine Sierra, who is VP of Sustainable Development at the World Bank in Washington, DC, agreed. "We do a suite of things before we get involved. For low carbon strategy to work, there is a right way based on the energy mix requirement and the endowment. We want to blend our financing for a transformational shift" (in those countries).

The AmCham meeting with Secretary Locke was closed and private. However, Locke did call three times for passage of positive energy legislation and was encouraged to see that Sens. Kerry, Lieberman and Graham had again come forward to offer to work together. He invited American and global businesses to push for resolution on Kerry-Boxer and Markey-Waxman.

Secretary Locke also asked businesses to publicize their success stories in green technology, carbon reduction efforts, and tell the world. The Commerce Department has just announced Green Patent Initiatives for business to come forward with promising new technology and seek patent protection in a more timely manner. The secretary set a goal of advancing the timeframe for approvals to about one year.

*Editor's Note: Mike Smith is part of the US Department of Commerce trade activity at Bright Green in Copenhagen. The US has a trade booth and events at the US Embassy

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