Corporate Leaders Want Cap On Greenhouse Gases

Companies want governments to set "scientifically informed targets" to reduce emissions.

Heavyweight companies including General Electric and Citigroup joined forces Feb. 20 in a high-profile campaign against global warming, demanding that governments mandate caps on greenhouse gases. The three-year-old Global Roundtable on Climate Change launched a new strategy backed by over 85 companies and groups including Air France, Alcoa, Bayer and Allianz.

"Global businesses are assuming their just place as catalysts for action on climate change. But action by business alone is not enough," GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt said at the campaign's launch. "While we believe that applying technology against problems will create positive business opportunities that can result in positive change, national, state and local governments, academia and other non-governmental organizations must step forward with equal force."

The Kyoto treaty against climate change is due to expire in 2012, creating pressure from corporations for policy action now to give the business world a solid basis on which to plan its environmental and technology investment. In a joint statement, the alliance called for governments to set "scientifically informed targets" to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are warming up the Earth's atmosphere. The companies said governments must put a price on carbon, and outline how best to boost energy efficiency and find ways of taking carbon out of all sectors.

Under Kyoto, developed countries are supposed to reduce their emissions by 5% by 2012 from 1990 levels. But the U.S. refused to adopt the pact, which also excluded big developing economies like China and India.

In the European Union, environment ministers agreed Feb. 20 to plans for deep cuts in greenhouse gases of at least 20% by 2020, and as much as 30% if other developed economies agree to do the same. The EU has already pioneered a market to "cap and trade" greenhouse gas emissions among its companies. In U.S. several lawmakers have proposed a similar national market.

Many multinational companies want a global carbon market, to make the policy framework consistent wherever they operate and increase the efficiency and profitability of such trading systems.

Alcoa, General Electric, DuPont and other corporate giants have already launched the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, demanding enforced change at the federal level in Washington. "Of course, addressing climate change involves risks and costs. But much greater is the risk of failing to act," said Alain Belda, the chief executive of Alcoa, the world's leading producer of aluminum. "I am convinced that we can build a global plan of action on climate change in ways that create more economic opportunities than risks," he said.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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