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Climate change: Here's how we get a deal

As the first-ever Climate Week Paris draws to an end, hopes remain cautiously high that a new global climate pact will be adopted at the landmark United Nations Climate Conference (COP-21) in December. Policy makers will no doubt leave Paris with their minds on the next steps in the UN's negotiating process. But it may be worth their while to draw inspiration from the past.

Some 88 years ago this week, Charles Lindbergh landed his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, near Paris, completing the first non-stop airplane flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Many had doubted whether Lindbergh would succeed. But of course, he made it to the outskirts of Paris. And Lindberg's landing spot? Le Bourget: the very location where COP-21 will take place this December.

Daisy Gilardini | Image Bank | Getty Images

Many of the crowd that gathered there that evening were reported to have proclaimed that Lindberg had made the "impossible possible." As we now head back to Le Bourget for this year's Paris Climate Conference, the task of governments can be summed up in slightly different terms: to make the possible a reality.

During the centerpiece event of Paris Climate Week, the Business and Climate Summit, we heard from a range of forward-looking companies that are already taking concerted action to meet the climate challenge. Faced with a real and growing problem, the natural instinct of companies is not to be passive but to take action and find solutions. That's why, despite prevailing uncertainty about the global direction of climate policy, the green bond market tripled to almost $40 billion in 2014, with yet further growth expected this year.

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Viewed through even the narrowest of commercial lenses, it makes plain business sense to reduce emissions and to build resilience to changing weather patterns. To take just one angle: Fortune 100 companies reporting on climate and energy targets are estimated to have made $1.1 billion in savings in 2013 alone. There are also signs that failing to adapt to climate change could have a significant impact on the cost of capital for businesses—and indeed governments—in the years to come.

That said, we recognize that the private sector must do more if we are to limit global temperature increases to 2°C. However, if business is to scale-up action to the level required, we need governments to put in place credible policy frameworks that provide much greater long-term certainty for green investments. This must start with a robust and ambitious deal at COP-21 that works with business to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by turning existing market failures into market opportunities.

With the right leadership from governments and business, we believe that it is possible to tackle climate change effectively—and in a way that promotes inclusive economic growth and job creation. For this reason, it is our hope that 2015 will mark the start of a new era of collaboration between policy makers and business to meet the climate challenge. Over recent years, international climate policy discussions have become increasingly open to business engagement. However, the expertise, experience and good practices of the business community have yet to be fully tapped by governments. We have seen this week in Paris that the private sector brings a unique insight and technical expertise that can enhance the entire life cycle of climate policy, from helping craft effective policy options through to taking concerted action.

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That's why leading private-sector networks, led by the International Chamber of Commerce, have this week called on governments to establish a recognized "consultative role" for the private sector under a future climate accord. Such a role would enable business to play a structured—and constructive—part in helping shape effective policies to speed emissions reductions and build climate resilience. It would, at a stroke, be a significant step forward in the way we go about addressing the shared challenge of climate change.

Unlike Lindbergh's epic flight, we don't need to make the "impossible possible" to tackle climate change. If we can forge a stronger working relationship between the public and private sectors in the months and years ahead, there's no doubt that we can make the possible a reality.

Commentary by Terry McGraw and John Danilovich, chairman and secretary-general, respectively, of the International Chamber of Commerce. Follow Danilovich on Twitter @JohnDanilovich.