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Last Updated: Friday, 27 May, 2005, 06:29 GMT 07:29 UK
Industry chiefs' environment plea
By Roger Harrabin
BBC Environment Correspondent

Industrial chimneys (BBC)
Industry leaders say cutting emissions could boost profits
A group of Britain's leading industrialists has written to the prime minister urgently demanding long-term policies to combat climate change.

The heads of the 12 leading firms say climate change is a huge challenge that needs serious investment by business.

But they say they cannot invest because they are not sure what future government policies on climate will be.

The letter is signed off by the heads of BP, Shell, HSBC Bank, BAA, John Lewis, Scottish Power and more.

Between them the firms employ tens of thousands of people and have a turnover of 452bn.

Catch 22

The letter has been arranged through the Prince of Wales Business and Environment programme. The business leaders say they are very concerned about the prospect of dangerous climate change and support the government's target of reducing CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050.

They regret that industry and government are currently caught in a Catch 22. Governments are nervous of clamping down on climate change emissions for fear of a backlash from business.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) successfully lobbied against proposed cuts last year. They said the measure would harm British business.

The Department of Trade and Industry and the prime minister have so far been backing the position of the CBI.

But in their letter the business leaders say they believe emissions cuts of 60% can be achieved in the UK without damaging competitiveness if firms use energy more wisely and harness new technology.

'Boost profits'

They believe measures to hold CO2 emissions to a safe level would reduce economic growth by no more than 2% by 2050.

They say bold policy action could actually boost Britain's profits by making the UK a world leader in low carbon technology.

The group say some of the technologies to achieve this goal already exist but need to be developed. Some are yet to be invented.

They point to a study showing that even if the UK starts seriously developing the market for zero emissions cars now, total emissions from cars will not start to fall until 2040.

The business leaders demand that the government establishes a long-term value for carbon emissions reductions and consistently supports and provides incentives for the development of new technologies.

They say the prime minister's presidency this year of both G8 and the EU offers an historic opportunity for a breakthrough on climate.

At home the group say the government should eliminate contradictory policies that lead to increase in CO2 - such as out of town developments.

They say ministers should make sure no new policies on any topic will fuel climate change.

A look at how new technology can combat climate change

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06 May 05 |  Scotland

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