Break-Out Group 4

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Group 4: Global Energy Policies

Speaker 1: Jane Paxman, BP, US

Speaker 2: Miguel Schloss, Transparency International

Speaker 3: Arjun Dutta, Consumer Unity & Trust Society, India

Chair: Daniel Wiener, Journalist

Rapporteur: Beth Hiblin, UNED Forum

Jane Paxman described how BP, deciding on its climate change policy to cut 10% of CO2 emissions, had an 18-month in-house process before it announced this unilateral action on climate change. In the process, BP held central control but consulted other organisations. Now they are advising others on emissions trading and other practices they themselves have instigated to achieve the reductions.

Miguel Schloss discussed work with oil companies, regional institutions and multilateral development / finance institutions on oil trade in sub-Saharan Africa. He highlighted three fundamental elements of the dialogue: 1) targeting to strategic concerns, 2) aiming for high and measurable impact, 3) having to benefit those that need change the most. This example also raised queries over the potential impact on the process of a vital grouping that is resistant to change (e.g. corrupt officials).

Arjun Dutta emphasised that it is vital to have action plans with a timeframe, as well as to identify bottlenecks. To achieve international targets we must have local, national and regional cooperation and action plans.

The discussion centred on whether it is possible for MSPs to work at the international level at all, if it is a goal to have MSPs about global energy policies, and how we can empower the process.

It is key to define the goal, a ‘common vision’, to which all the participant groups are working. Then all participants have an interest in achieving this vision, thus limiting the chances of a group pulling out of the MSP and irrevocably damaging it. As benefits are subjective finding this commonality can be hard, but time spent on this will strengthen the process later on. This is also true of defining the common context and background – then everyone is ‘working from the same page’ and the dialogue is built on good foundations. However, with one of the strengths of MSPs being that they allow for thinking ‘outside of the box’ the framework should not be set too rigidly as this may stifle innovation. The dialogue then becomes a negotiating instrument for achieving the vision through solving specifics within the dialogue. It was noted that MSPs may be culturally biased and the potential for this to impact upon the process, either positively or negatively, should be considered.

The dialogue should include all relevant stakeholders and cannot exclude major players in the process. In fact, it should be open to any group with an interest in the outcome. However, it was realised that some stakeholder groups would need financial support to be involved in MSPs as they do not have the same level of resources as others (e.g. NGOs versus corporations), and that a level of independence of the major groups is also necessary.

The BP case study presented led the participants to discuss the concept of in-house MSPs for big business, in light of the role many of the world’s largest corporations have to play in achieving CO2 emission cuts. If businesses make a sea change in their operating policy it must be done in consultation to ensure a competent, workable solution. This could be encouraged by the fact that it is good business to ensure they ‘get it right’ and they have this vested interest in making it as viable as possible. However, the company would have to be an enlightened one in order to make true use of an MSP determining its goals, and also if letting stakeholders monitor compliance to these new goals. Even if companies were convinced of the value added in involving stakeholders in this manner, they may be reluctant to make sweeping changes that place them ahead of the game. With conventions and laws taking much longer to develop and implement, many corporations want to remain neutral until the consequences of new legal conditions are clear.

It was suggested that a global MSP on climate change is urgently needed to ensure that governments are making demonstrable progress on this issue by 2005. However, the current situation of many groups being involved in the process in an unstructured manner has in fact not helped the process – with the US and other activists promoting the progress of the international negotiations without putting in the groundwork to change public attitudes. Hence, there is not enough domestic support for politicians to commit to the international agenda and implement change at home. The global level MSP must be legitimised by voters, or else the rhetoric won’t ever become reality.

MSPs were also seen as a means to transcend the old Rio and NGO concept of "thinking globally and acting locally". Sometimes you need to act globally as well since international frameworks and the policies of corporations aim at the international or even global level, too. Together with the networking-potential of new information technologies it has become possible to cooperate and communicate successfully over long distances without having to spend too much time or money for travel. These new technologies can facilitate a pre- or post MSP dialogue process that still has to be conducted by real persons representing real stakeholders at real tables. 

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Contact Minu Hemmati and Felix Dodds for further information.