Following the hundreds of thousands of people who marched in cities around the world on Sunday, the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) commenced in Paris this week. As leaders from 147 nations gathered to address the conference, few can doubt the global significance of climate change and the importance the world is placing on tackling the challenges we face.

Whilst it is the politicians who will look to negotiate a deal aimed at reducing global carbon emissions in an attempt to limit global warming to 2oC, David Cameron himself stated that “the issue of climate change is too large for governments alone to deal with. That is why business and private donors must play an active role in shaping our response to climate change, and enabling trillions of dollars of investment in clean technology”.

Few dispute this and the recent launch by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg, Richard Branson and other high-profile entrepreneurs of an investment fund dedicated to finding clean energy demonstrates the commitment by business to play their part. For those of us with an interest in the electric vehicle world, Elon Musk can be added to this list with his backing of Tesla and SolarCity. But critically, these companies have been hugely successful on the capital markets as investors realise the demand from society for companies able to offer more sustainable products. More evidence can be seen in the rise of ‘Green bonds’ with HSBC, for example, recently injecting $1bn into a green bond portfolio.

Potentially therefore it will be the bottom up approach that has the biggest impact on our ability to tackle climate change rather than a top-down approach driven by legislation. Actions by individuals, their buying habits and desire to support companies with socially responsible principles will drive the profits of those businesses who respond to this demand. Business that can innovate and benefit from the disruption to traditional markets. Perhaps this is why China has invested $90bn on renewable power generation in 2014. Not only because it has to sort out its own air pollution issues but because it can see the development of renewable products and technology will support its exporting economy into the future.

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