Some of the sheen came off the United Nations climate summit in Durban yesterday as a key business survey found that global warming has fallen to the bottom of the list of concerns of European companies.
A cocktail of competing "events", ranging from the recession to the Arab Spring, have collectively taken chief executives' eyes off the ball with regard to climate change, significantly reducing the time, effort and money they plan to invest to combat its effects, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which compiled the report.
As a result, European CEOs say global warming now has less impact on strategy and investment decisions than any of the seven other key events the report identifies as most influencing company behaviour.
This puts climate change below such issues as the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, the earthquake and nuclear crisis in Japan, the Arab Spring uprisings, competition to secure affordable natural resources and concerns about rising poverty and inequality. Climate change was placed second in the league table last year.
The failure of delegates meeting in South Africa to agree specific targets for cutting emissions will do nothing to push global warming back up the business agenda, the report warned.
Jonathan Grant, the director of sustainability and climate change at PwC, said: "Business will shrug its shoulders over Durban and wait for direction from national capitals. There is still no more ambition here than what we saw in Cancun or even Copenhagen. What we got instead was a clear signal that we might get another clear signal in 2015."
However, business leaders and environment campaigners alike acknowledged that the summit represented a breakthrough. In a deal which was brokered at the last minute by the EU and Indian negotiators, China, the US and India agreed for the first time to be legally bound to reduce emissions.
This commitment formed part of a broader, binding reduction agreement involving both developed and developing countries.
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