Page last updated at 02:08 GMT, Friday, 20 June 2008 03:08 UK

Business chiefs urge carbon curbs

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Aeroplane. Image: AFP/Getty
Aviation is the fastest rising source of emissions, despite efficiency gains

A coalition of 99 companies is asking political leaders to set targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and to establish a global carbon market.

Their blueprint for tackling climate change is being handed to Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda ahead of next month's G8 summit in Japan.

Companies involved include Alcoa, British Airways (BA), Deutsche Bank, EDF, Petrobras, Shell and Vattenfall.

They argue that cutting emissions must be made to carry economic advantages.

The business leaders hope their ideas will feed through the G8 into the series of UN climate meetings that are aiming to produce a successor to the Kyoto Protocol when its current targets expire in 2012.

Business can't operate in a policy vacuum - we need strong leadership from governments
Willie Walsh, BA

Scientific and economic evidence assembled by the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Stern Review mean, they believe, that taking climate action now would be prudent.

"While recognising that there are still some uncertainties in the scientific and economic evidence available, these CEOs conclude that a responsible risk management approach to the issue requires political and business leaders to take action now," the document states.

The companies involved span all of the G8+5 countries and virtually every major industrial sector.

Leadership demand

Among the key recommendations are that:

  • All major economies, including developing ones such as China and India, should be included in the post-Kyoto deal, with richer countries committing to deeper and earlier emissions reduction
  • Governments should aspire to halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050
  • Governments and businesses should urgently explore bottom-up approaches to reducing emissions
  • A global carbon trading system should be established as soon as possible
  • Emissions caps should be applied flexibly across industry, with some sectors allowed leeway to preserve competitiveness.
"It's important that the business community demonstrates a desire to work with governments to tackle the challenge that climate change represents," said BA CEO Willie Walsh.

"But the report makes it clear that business can't operate in a policy vacuum - we need strong leadership from governments."

Some of the report's elements fall close to aims already articulated by political leaders.

Caio Koch-Weser. Image: WEF
We see enormous opportunities for the financial industry, beyond the challenge we face as global citizens
Caio Koch-Weser, Deutsche Bank

Last week, Mr Fukuda declared an ambition to cut Japan's greenhouse gas emissions by 60-80% by 2050.

But many environmental groups argue that shorter term targets are needed, as progress towards them is easier to gauge and backsliding more obvious.

The EU's ambition is to make cuts of 20% from 1990 levels by 2020. But the business coalition decided against setting a short term figure.

"Creating an environment that will encourage people to do things differently is more important than setting a global target," said Steve Lennon, managing director of the South African energy giant Eskom.

But environmentalists will argue that promoting a 2050 target that is "aspirational" rather than set in stone, and allowing wiggle-room for high-emitting industries, may lead to a relatively weak post-Kyoto deal.

Cap in hand

There is no doubt that some of the companies in this coalition see economic opportunities arising from climate change solutions.

"We see enormous opportunities for the financial industry, beyond the challenge we face as global citizens," said Caio Koch-Weser, vice chairman of Deutsche Bank.

"If leadership is there to create a Kyoto successor that is based on cap and trade, then it creates a global carbon market - and then we are in business."

The CEO Climate Policy Recommendations to G8 Leaders are the culmination of a year of discussions facilitated by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

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