Climate Power Brokers and Influencers: 10 People Who Count at Copenhagen

This morning’s espresso-fueled breakfast debate centered on “who really matters” at Copenhagen amongst 15,000 world leaders, negotiators, scientists, business chiefs, NGOs who have descended on Denmark for 2 cold weeks in December.



Burning the midnight oil trying to take in all of the side-events, plenaries, and informal meetings at events like Copenhagen–if indeed there are ‘events like Copenhagen’–requires caffeine. Lots of caffeine. And caffeine is always better enjoyed with friends and colleagues. This morning’s espresso-fueled breakfast debate centered on ‘who really matters’ at Copenhagen amongst 15,000 world leaders, negotiators, scientists, business chiefs, NGOs who have descended on Denmark for 2 cold weeks in December.

So, sitting here at the start of week 2 reflecting on this–actually during a session with the leadership from the International Panel on Climate Change, the global scientific body tasked with unraveling the science of climate change and providing a strong evidence-base for policy-making–here’s my ‘Top 10’. It’s based on the need to shift through the gears of good science, good economics, good communication and, most importantly, from clear policy to real action from the public and private sector:

1. Professor Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the International Panel on Climate Change. “The Persistent Scientist”
Why? Because the IPCC made up of more than 600 climate scientists appointed by global governments is on one level the most important voice here. The IPCC’s 4th report has driven the aggressive targets currently being discussed. So the IPCC is important for the impact it has already had and the extent to which the best science we have must continue to drive policy, regulation and business action.


2. Lord Nicholas Stern, Author of the Stern Report. “The Empowering Economist”
Why? Because Lord Stern’s report “The Economics of Climate Change” was the first widely acclaimed and debated economic analysis of the costs and benefits of tackling climate change for the global economy. Although it built on plenty of previous work, it gave the UK government and other politicians a basis from which o evaluate policy impact and investment in both environmental and GDP terms. It also showed that tackling climate change wouldn’t, if you’ll pardon the pun, ‘cost the earth’, probably as little as 1-2% of GDP to 2050, and that a failure to do so would likely result in a 5-20% brake on global growth.
3. Al Gore, climate activist. “The Mass Communicator”
Why? Because love him or loathe him or his approach to ‘simplifying’ the science, economics and solutions to climate change; he has reached popular culture and citizens more effectively and in greater numbers than anyone in his generation. That matters.

4. Martin Kaiser, Greenpeace International’s climate policy advisor. “The Unrelenting Activist”
Why? Because the NGO community continues to keep the pressure on and organizations like Greenpeace, for whatever motivation, refuse to accept anything that doesn’t match up to the science. So even as draft texts here at Copenhagen circulated last night talking of as much as 45% developed country emissions reductions on 2020 levels and 95% by 2050–a staggering prospect–Martin commented in a PointCarbon article “It is imperative that they strengthen it [the draft UN text] considerably and fill in the gaps, so that it produces the legally binding deal that averts climate chaos.”

5. Yvo de Boer, Executive Director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. “The Climate Czar”

Why? Yvo is the chief climate czar for the UN and tasked with shepherding a political deal at Copenhagen that matches up to what the science says we need to do (stay below 2 degrees by 2050) while balancing the interests of the ‘big beast’ countries and the tension between the developed and developing economies. No mean feat.


6. Barack Obama, U.S. President. “The Prospective Deal-maker”
Why? Because without the U.S. there is no global deal. Full stop. But also because his attendance in the second week, albeit may be unlikely to lead to a binding legal treaty, greatly increases the chances of a political agreement to be fleshed out during the next 12 months in Bonn and at the next UN Climate Summit in Mexico next winter.

7. Hu Jintao Chinese President. “The Conflicted Decision Maker”
Why? Because, as with the US, without China there is no global deal given China is now the world’s largest net emitter of greenhouse gases (albeit well down the scale in terms of emissions per person). But also because China is itself caught in the ‘Catch 22’ that the world also finds itself in. It needs to grow to reduce poverty and raise the living standards of a billion people but also recognizes that its stake in a stable global (and local environment) is essential. To solve the ‘China dilemma’ is to solve the global climate dilemma. And China has already started to take bold steps in terms of policy, investment and commitment to reduce the carbon-intensity of its growth

8. Jim Rogers, CEO Duke Energy. “The Progressive Business Leader”
Why? Because once the political stage has been set, business will need to drive innovation and provide the solutions; because ‘solving’ clean coal is essential; because solving coal in the US and China is absolutely essential – even if unlikely in the short-term; and because Jim and Duke are one of the first to make a start.


9. The Copenhagen Metro. “The Intelligent City”
Why? Because this week in Copenhagen, travel on the Copenhagen Metro to and from the Bella Center, which hosts the UN Climate Summit is free and the metro is one of the most efficient and effective in the world. I’ve picked the ‘Intelligent City’ for two reasons. Firstly, Copenhagen’s decision to allow free access was common sense and has managed what could have been challenging traffic problems fetching and carrying politicians, business leaders and their entourages. But, secondly, because 70% of global emissions stem from cities and urban environments. So much of the ‘so what’ in terms of actions by the public and private sector will play out around the ‘Intelligent City’ both in terms of smart decision-making but also the application of smart technologies that reshape the way we work, live and in this case–travel.

10. Isabel, my 14 month old god-daughter. “The Future … “

Why? Because, this is for future generations and it matters. With luck, she will see 2100. If we get this wrong–and see an interesting tool that’s been developed to show real-time the likely impact the current negotiating position would have on climate change by 2100–she’s the one who will have to deal with temperatures unknown since the last ice-age, extreme weather patterns, water shortages, mass migration and of course the ensuing conflicts. But if we get it right, she stands to benefit from the ‘insurance policy’ we take out now and the wave of clean growth and innovation that will surely follow.

Peter Lacy, based in London, is Managing Director of Accenture Sustainability Services–Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America