Friday, November 30, 2007

Pre-Bali meeting, businesses urge climate action Business leaders from 150 global companies have called for a comprehensive, legally binding United Nations framework to tackle climate change. The initiative, led by the Prince of Wales and EU Corporate Leaders Groups on Climate Change (CLGCC), includes some of the biggest global companies from the US, Europe, Australia and China. It comes before UN climate talks in Bali, Indonesia, from December 3-14.

The global business pact demands an "urgent global response" to climate change - for which scientific evidence is "overwhelming" - as it "presents very serious global social, environmental and economic risks". James Smith, the chairman of Shell UK, which is part of the CLGCC, said the message from the international business community "couldn't be clearer. A comprehensive, legally-binding UN agreement to tackle climate change will provide business with the certainty it needs to scale up global investment in low carbon technologies. The cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of taking action now. It is crucial that, at the Bali conference, countries agree a work plan of comprehensive negotiations to ensure a robust policy framework is in place, to guide us forward over the coming decades."

The statement from the CLGCC says that: "The overall targets for emissions reduction must be guided primarily by science." This is in contrast to the argument that has previously been made by some parts of the business community that it is concerned over competitiveness and cost that should set the limit of emission cuts.

The leaders note that evidence from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) already points to a reduction being required of "at least 50 per cent by 2050" and comment that the "greatest effort" will need to be made by those countries that have already industrialised. Companies in support of the UN call include Coca-Cola, Gap, Nike, Sun Microsystems, Westpac, Anglo-American, F&C Asset Management, British Airways, Nestle, Nokia, Shell, Tesco, Virgin and Volkswagen.

Significantly, the communique has also been signed by a number of Chinese companies, including Shanghai Electric, Zhufeng Technology and Suntech. China is the world's second largest greenhouse gas emitter.

Alain Grisay, chief executive of F&C Asset Management said: "Business and investors can only play their part in tackling climate change if governments take decisive action to make this possible. This problem will not get solved through market forces alone in the time that we have left to act, because climate change presents a textbook example of market failure. This means that voluntary targets won't do. Business needs a level playing field in order to take on the financial risks that adequate action on climate change requires".

Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth, welcomed the initiative. "The shift to a low carbon economy is not only an environmental imperative but also an unprecedented economic and social opportunity," he said. "Scaling up clean energy systems and using energy more efficiently could not only slash emissions, but help to improve the quality of life for billions of people and create millions of jobs."

Commitments by countries under the Kyoto Protocol, an international convention on climate change with the objective of reducing greenhouse gases, are due to expire in 2012. The "Bali road map", which is set to be established following next week's UN conference, will begin the process of developing a future climate change regime, including adaptation, mitigation, technology co-operation and financing the response to climate change.

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