Carter Roberts discusses WWF's partnerships with business community

As Senate action on climate begins to heat up, the international community is keeping a close watch on the negotiations ahead of the Copenhagen meeting. What assurances does the United States need to make at the Copenhagen meeting? During today's OnPoint, Carter Roberts, CEO of the World Wildlife Fund, explains why he believes an agreement in Copenhagen is possible. He discusses what role President Obama should play in the negotiations and how the Senate's progress will affect the talks. Roberts also discusses the momentum surrounding the addition of a strong nuclear title to the Senate's legislation.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to the show. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Carter Roberts, CEO of the World Wildlife Fund. Carter, thanks for coming on the show.

Carter Roberts: My pleasure.

Monica Trauzzi: Carter, it's been a busy week in the Senate on climate. WWF has been directly involved in the lobbying efforts for cap and trade, but you're generally not known as a political advocacy group that really gets into the weeds of legislation. So what is it about this issue that sort of motivated you guys to start up this campaign that you have started up and really get involved in those lobbying efforts?

Carter Roberts: Well, our mission is all about saving species and overtime we've succeeded in saving them and their habitats all around the world. Now we're looking at those habitats and we're seeing them come apart in front of our eyes and that has a lot of importance for what we're trying to do with species, also for people. That's why we're getting into the game now and telling the story of the consequences of inaction and comparing those to the costs of action.

Monica Trauzzi: And as part of this effort you forged partnerships with many businesses helping them to sort of establish targets and outline how they want to be more sustainable in their business practices. Recently the U.S. Chamber of Commerce came under fire for their stance on climate change. We've seen several businesses move away from the chamber as a result of that. So can a business be serious about acting on climate and still be part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce?

Carter Roberts: What you're asking is are the most forward-looking companies demanding cap-and-trade legislation? And they are. Smart companies get it. They look at the future. They see that if we as a country and those businesses invest in solving this problem their products will be demanded all around the world. So when they look at future markets, future jobs, future industries they want regulation here at home and a legally binding agreement overseas to make it easier to invest in the right thing.

Monica Trauzzi: So is WWF encouraging companies to believe the chamber? Is that part of the effort that you're involved in?

Carter Roberts: Companies are making their own decision to stay in the chamber or leave the chamber. Those companies around which the U.S.'s reputation depends, like Google, Johnson & Johnson, IBM, GE, those companies are asking for cap-and-trade legislation. They're demanding international agreements because they look at the future, they see the need to solve this problem, and they see future jobs and marketshare as a result.

Monica Trauzzi: Most in the business community understand the need for establishing sustainable business practices moving forward, but there's a big difference between just being sustainable and needing to follow the strict targets outlined by a cap and trade. So how do you, WWF, how do you bridge that gap and how do you help companies get there?

Carter Roberts: So, WWF works with companies around the world who are interested in their footprint, interested in solving the world's problems, and interested in creating the right regulatory framework to make it easier to do that. It's interesting; I attended my reunion of Harvard Business School a year ago and the most attended lecture was by a professor who titled his lecture "Make Your Own Luck." A hundred people in the audience, they all came, they're all interested in how do they build their future fortunes? And when he polled everyone and asked what are the most inevitable things that are going to happen in this century, three out of the top four issues they listed were China, climate change, and resource scarcity. And he concluded you make your own luck by investing in the inevitable and solving those problems.

Monica Trauzzi: All eyes are on the upcoming international climate discussions in Copenhagen and there's a real interplay that's happening between the domestic discussions and the international discussions. What does President Obama need to do leading up to the Copenhagen negotiations in order for the U.S. to be not completely blamed if a treaty is not passed?

Carter Roberts: The time is now the U.S. to lead. We should come to Copenhagen with real evidence of a bill that will pass the Senate with hard caps, strong international measures on forests, clean tech, and adaptation. And we'd urge President Obama to really press the Senate to do that and to personally come to Copenhagen, look the other world leaders in the eye and secure their commitments to solve the problem too. The time is now the U.S. to lead and to secure corresponding agreements from the rest of the world. This is a really interesting moment. There have been moments in the world where the nations have come together to solve problems, rebuilding after World War II, solving polio, solving the ozone problem in Montreal. We've done it before and the time now is to do it again.

Monica Trauzzi: But there are still some serious issues that need to be debated on the Senate side and there are some disparities between the Senate legislation as it stands now and the House legislation that passed earlier this year. So really, how likely do you think it will be that President Obama will actually have something for the international community come December?

Carter Roberts: Well, Chairman Boxer said she wants to start moving the bill out of her committee next week. Senator Kerry wants to move a bill by Thanksgiving. We'll see how long that takes. We believe that most of the major committees can move this bill. There's not that much difference really between the Senate and House. And having a good hard cap, having strong international measures, having all that in place out of those key committees and coming to Copenhagen with that in place, I think, will turn the tide. And we believe that we can still move legislation to Senate and still come to Copenhagen and we can still cut a deal with other countries to solve the problem.

Monica Trauzzi: OK, a lot of people would think that that is not quite possible, but you guys do think it is. Nuclear, getting a lot of attention in the Senate. A strong nuclear title, it's gaining traction, it's gaining momentum. Can nuclear be a successful part of an overall energy policy or do you see a way that the Democrats can get those 60 votes without including a nuclear title?

Carter Roberts: You can't solve the climate problem by taking nuclear off the table. It is not our first choice. There are far more efficient means of reducing CO2 emissions, energy efficiency, reducing deforestation, there are lots of means all outlined in the McKinsey report of getting there with existing simple technologies without even deploying nuclear. So it's probable that nuclear will have two be part of the solution. It's not our first choice. The problem is so big that we're going to have to deploy just about every means at our disposal to solve it and we believe the Senate will make the right trade-offs and come ready to pass a real hard cap and the means to get there.

Monica Trauzzi: OK, we'll end it right there. Thank you for coming on the show.

Carter Roberts: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

[End of Audio]



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