Last year, I informed the Executive Committee (ExCo) of my intent to step down as President following my turning 65 in August 2011. By the end of this year, I will have served as President of the WBCSD for 17 years. It has been a privilege to lead the council from its inception in 1995 until today.
The ExCo has conducted a search for my successor and at an extraordinary meeting on September 6, Peter Bakker, former CEO of TNT, was appointed new WBCSD President as of January 1, 2012.
I am very pleased that Peter has accepted to join the WBCSD. As head of TNT and a Council Member in the WBCSD, he has demonstrated his leadership skills as well as his commitment to sustainable development.
Following Peter’s takeover as President, I will be available as an advisor to him on a part-time basis for the first half of 2012.
Over the next few months, I will have the opportunity to gather my thoughts about the 17 years I have led the WBCSD and will share some more thoughts with you.
The external press release announcing Peter’s appointment can be found on our website.
THE STATE OF THE WORLD
In my Executive Member Updates of May and June, I asked the questions “Whose responsibility is it?”, and, “Where are we going?” I am afraid that the answers to these questions have not become evident during the summer.
We are still in a “Nobody in Charge World” and will most likely remain so for the next 1 ½ - 2 years as many governments are inward-looking and focused on solving difficult economic problems or seeking re-election. Next year there are presidential elections in the U.S., France, Russia and Mexico, a transition to a new generation of leaders in China, and political uncertainty in a number of other countries.
That said, for the WBCSD as a platform for global companies, this is an opportunity to “fill the vacuum”, bring forward solutions and demonstrate leadership. Afterall, the WBCSD members are successful, international companies, delivering products, services and solutions to over 3 billion people every day.
South Africa (SA) is hosting the COP 17 in Durban in December. I visited in July to meet with our members, our local Regional Network partner, the National Business Initiative (NBI), and the government.
There is strong engagement for the COP and the venue and physical arrangements in Durban seem satisfactory. However, clarity is lacking regarding the potential outcome of the COP. I have warned the SA government that they are facing two substantial stumbling blocks that could create a lot of tension in Durban between the “rich and poor” countries.
The first is that it is unlikely that there will be agreement on a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol (KP). Japan, Russian and Canada have clearly said no and other key countries like the U.S., China, India and Brazil do not have any commitments under the KP in the first place.
The second stumbling block is that the Cancun Agreement includes that the rich countries are supposed to give USD 100 billion per year as of 2020 to the poorer countries to help them finance actions on climate change. The sources of these funds are not likely to be defined by December. Given the state of the public finances in the U.S. and the EU, one can question if and when they could be agreed.
So, the challenge for SA, as the host of COP 17, is to find a way to position this COP as a milestone on a journey, and to define success in ways that are not hostage to the slow progress in the formal government negotiations. The WBCSD, the ICC and the NBI are working together to coordinate the business presence in Durban including the Business Day on December 5.
I have been asked what the value of going to Durban is by several members. My reply is that as global business we need to demonstrate our commitment to the concept of a global climate agreement that doesn’t distort trade and competitiveness. And the absence of global business at COP would be much noticed.