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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 February 2007, 19:36 GMT
Business calls for carbon targets

Aeroplane landing. Image: AFP/Getty
Airlines are among the businesses represented in the statement
An international grouping of corporate leaders has called on governments to take more action on climate change.

The Global Roundtable on Climate Change, which includes more than 80 big companies, says politicians need to agree new targets for carbon emissions.

Targets should be "scientifically informed", they say, and lead to pricing carbon in a global market as a route to cutting emissions.

The group issued a statement in New York following several years of talks.

"Climate change is an urgent problem requiring global action to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases," the statement reads.

"Confronting climate change depends, in many ways, on adopting new and sustainable energy strategies that can meet growing global energy needs while allowing for the stabilisation of atmospheric CO2 concentrations at safe levels."

Kyoto-style commitment

While many business groups have called for political action on climate over the last few years, not all have sought binding targets on emissions.

Some have argued that voluntary actions are a better route.

We can build a global plan of action on climate change in ways that create more economic opportunities than risks
Alain Belda, Alcoa
But the Global Roundtable, which includes companies such as Air France, the aluminium giant Alcoa, re-insurers Swiss Re and Munich Re as well as energy companies Electricite de France and Centrica, is unequivocal in saying that politicians need to reach a new binding deal beyond the current Kyoto Protocol targets which expire in 2012.

"The world's governments should set scientifically informed targets, including an ambitious but achievable interim, mid-century target for global CO2 concentrations, for 'stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system'," the group says.

This wording mirrors the phraseology of the United Nations climate convention exactly.

And in language drawn from the Kyoto Protocol, which cuts through the Bush Administration's often-stated contention that China and India need to adopt emissions targets, the statement continues: "Commitments for actions by individual countries should reflect differences in levels of economic development and GHG emission patterns and the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities."

The statement was issued a few hours after European environment ministers agreed in principle to cut emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020.

Progress towards a new round of global targets, and a worldwide carbon market, has stalled in recent years, partly because of lobbying by companies in the opposite ideological corner to the Global Roundtable.

"I am convinced that we can build a global plan of action on climate change in ways that create more economic opportunities than risks," said Alcoa chairman and CEO Alain Belda.

"Of course, addressing climate change involves risks and costs. But much greater is the risk of failing to act."

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