There is a strong rhetoric present within international climate change discussions that assumes the private sector, as a key set of actors, will be both willing and able to identify and implement the necessary actions to:

  • reduce GHG emissions, and
  • ameliorate the impacts of climate change itself.

Curiously, this is a largely ahistorical assumption especially when applied in the context of developing countries, for whom the primary concern is how they will adapt to the impacts of climate change. For many poor communities, the risks posed by climate change are not new problems. Famines, water shortages and disease have long been taking their toll on precariously balanced livelihoods throughout the developing world. Such problems have been on the international agenda for decades and yet many remain today as challenging as ever. So while action to tackle them might now have a new label, ie adaptation, it is unclear why we should expect the private sector to now solve problems that it has not solved before.

So the proverbial elephant in the climate adaptation room is, where has the private sector been?

This project asks the simple question:

  • Are we right to place our faith in the private sector?
  • What grounds, if any, do we have for optimism regarding the role of the private sector?
  • Has anything changed, either materially or ideologically, that suggests action where in the past there has been inaction?
  • What lessons have been learned from private sector action/inaction in response to poverty and development agendas?
  • What enabling conditions need to be fostered at an international level in order for positive outcomes to be seen on the ground in developing countries?