While the current US administration has stubbornly avoided the issue of climate change, not all corporate America is so obdurate, according to Timothy Juliani, markets & business strategy fellow, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a US based charity. He confirmed the view expressed by another speaker on the first day of the conference that that there has been a sea change in US opinion.

Already 42 large corporations with a combined market capitalisation of $2.4 trillion have joined Pew’s Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC). One of the greatest motivations for business to get involved in such organisations now, Juliani explained, is that companies believe that it will give them a role in shaping future government policy.

In October 2006, the Pew Center published an extensive report for business, Getting Ahead of the Curve: Corporate Strategies That Address Climate Change.

The research found that nearly all companies questioned believe that federal greenhouse gas standards are imminent. Since the Democrats gained control of Congress in the November 2006 elections, there has been hearings frenzy” into proposed climate change legislation with over two dozen in the first three months of 2007. The speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has asked for a climate bill by 4 July.

One of the case studies on which the report draws is Swiss Re, now the world’s largest reinsurance company, which intends to be carbon neutral by 2013. Juliani highlighted the importance of the support of the CEO and senior management to this initiative.

The public, too, is becoming more aware, but in polls of public opinion, the environment comes low on people’s list of concerns after such issues as terrorism and education. “Climate is a top down issue,” Juliani said, “It has been drawn by science which has been over the heads of many people. Now the science has become very clear and it is represented in the US press. That is a major change in the past year.”

Lee Coppack is editor of Catastrophe Risk Management