By Maximilian Clarke

Although business delegates welcomed the last minute agreement at the UN Climate Summit in Durban on Sunday to a roadmap to a long term deal on reducing emissions, global CEOs admit the lack of a global climate deal is not having a major impact on their business strategies.

The preliminary results from the PwC Global CEO Survey for 2012, examined whether the lack of a global climate change agreement in Cancun and Copenhagen has triggered a change in their business strategy.

Around 800 CEOs globally suggest that the lack of progress in the international negotiations has affected few businesses, fewer in fact than other global events over the past two years, including the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, the earthquake and nuclear crisis in Japan, or the Arab Spring. Only the Volcanic Ash events of 2010 triggered less change in strategy than climate change globally.

“The agreement reached was more of a victory for the UN process, than for the global climate, or in creating a new business imperative,” commented Jonathan Grant, PwC sustainability and climate change. “Business will shrug its shoulders over Durban and wait for direction from national capitals.

“There is still no more ambition here than what we saw in Cancun or even Copenhagen. What we got instead was a clear signal that we might get another clear signal in 2015. Business investment in low carbon and climate change strategies has to fight for attention. Policy makers need to work with business, to help them do more, faster.”

In Europe, the early results show that the issue was ranked bottom of the list of global events influencing changes in business.

“This isn’t about big business sticking its head in the sand on climate change,” explains Richard Gledhill, partner, PwC sustainability and climate change. “Their emphasis is shifting to engage more broadly across the sustainability agenda. Many multinationals are looking beyond carbon to the wider energy/water/food nexus and resource scarcity rather than waiting for action on a global deal. It’s no surprise that in such a complex and long winded process, they are feeling disconnected.”

When questioned on how CEOs plan to increase investment over the next three years, addressing the risks of climate change and protecting biodiversity ranked bottom of the list behind ‘reducing poverty and inequality and ‘securing the natural resources critical for business’ amongst other issues.

The results are the third year in a row that CEOs have reported climate change related issues low on the priority list in comparison with issues such as regulation, new markets and availability of skills.

• In PwC’s 2011 survey, only 27% of CEOs named climate change among their biggest threats to growth, from a list of global risks which included scarcity of natural resources, terrorism, pandemics, natural disasters, political instability amongst others.

• In January 2010, in the wake of the disappointing Copenhagen summit, 37% said they were "somewhat" or "extremely concerned" about climate change as a threat to growth.

Negotiations in Durban were overshadowed by the Eurozone crisis, and the emergence of a new European Treaty.

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