World Climate Summit: Can businesses unite with the government for good?

One of the most thought-provoking panels of the day revolved around public-private partnerships, and how they can help fight back the grip of climate change. Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Piechociński stressed the growing importance of entrepreneurs to environmental issues this morning, but this was the first time real business leaders got the opportunity to get their own opinions across.

Diving straight into the spotlight – and speaking on behalf of the private sector - stepped Jørgen Tang-Jensen, the CEO of Velux, and Paul Simpson, the CEO of CDP.

Buildings are the primary focus of Velux. According to Tang-Jensen, almost 40 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions come about as a result of inefficient heating and cooling of buildings. Since we spend so much of our time indoors, he believes that better development of these structures is a natural place to start and, even better, efficiency doesn't have to come at the expense of comfort.

Simpson was more finance-focused. According to him, the government needs to incentivise the acceleration and adoption of climate-friendly initiatives. If the public sector was to offer tax breaks and listen to business needs – rather than trying to dictate policies – the private sector could become much more accommodating of such matters.

The conclusion from these speakers was that businesses need the government to produce clear, ambitious goals to work towards, without trying to control the way in which these targets are achieved. In other words, lay out the objective and leave the methodology to private organisations.

Simpson was keen to emphasise the importance of long-term planning, especially in regards to an issue as large as climate change. In his view, businesses are much more likely to commit to a plan if the government is willing to prove its own commitment with concrete gestures, such as de-risking potentially expensive early-stage investments.

However he also admitted that, in any case, a large question mark will continue to hang over public-private partnerships, simply due to - for want of a better word - stubbornness. Whatever the government proposes, companies are almost guaranteed to support and ridicule in equal measure. It's up to both sectors to reach a compromise.