Business Leaders Urge Climate Action

NEW YORK, New York, February 22, 2007 (ENS) - Climate change is "an urgent problem that requires global action," according to a joint statement issued this week by the leaders of more than 90 major international corporations and organizations, including Citigroup, General Electric, Rolls Royce, Volvo and the World Council of Churches.

The statement calls on governments to set new targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enact bold policies to increase energy efficiency. The signatories recommend the world set a price on emissions of carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas, and cooperate on a new international agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

"Cost-efficient technologies exist today, and others could be developed and deployed, to improve energy efficiency and to help reduce emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in major sectors of the global economy," the statement said. "Research indicates that heading off the very dangerous risks associated with doubling pre-industrial atmospheric concentrations of CO2, while an immense challenge, can be achieved at a reasonable cost.

The statement is the outcome of discussions held by participants of the Global Roundtable on Climate Change, a project started in 2004 by The Earth Institute at Columbia University.

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The signatories say the time to act to slow global warming is now. (Photo courtesy the David Suzuki Foundation)

"Leaders from key economic sectors and regions of the world have reached a consensus on the path forward to reduce human-made climate change," said Jeffrey Sachs, chair of the roundtable and director of The Earth Institute. "This initiative points the way to an urgently needed global framework for action."

The statement comes on the heels of a call by 10 leading U.S. businesses for mandatory greenhouse gas emission reductions and reflects a growing desire by many in the business community for action on climate change.

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

"Global businesses are assuming their just place as catalysts for action on climate change. But action by business alone is not enough," added Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric. "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 signatories contend that their ability to agree upon the statement - despite diverse views and interests - demonstrates the possibility of developing a global consensus on a positive, proactive approach to meeting the challenge of global climate change.

Representatives of the global insurance industry also endorsed the statement, citing climate change as a growing risk to business and society.

Clement Booth, executive board member of insurance giant Allianz SE, said the his company already sees signs that climate change is "serious emerging risk."

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The statement is in part due to the work of Jeffrey Sachs, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. (Photo courtesy Columbia University)

"We expect it to remain a top-tier issue for the insurance industry for many decades to come," Booth said. "I believe it is our responsibility to address and tackle this risk, making homes and businesses safer and more secure for our clients."

Senator Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican, praised the statement and said she will present it to Congress as a possible point of action on curbing the country's greenhouse gas emissions.

Snowe called the statement "a vital tool to help all nations shape sound public climate change policy."

"As a participant in the Roundtable, I am acting as a conduit for getting the Joint Statement before the U.S. Congress to assist it in coalescing around and adopting scientifically informed and cost effective targets to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions," Snowe added. "The U.S. must engage with a significant level of commitment so that the world's largest emerging economies will participate in adopting a global strategy."

The roundtable's full statement can be found here.

Signatories include Air France, American Electric Power, Bayer, China Renewable Energy Industry Association, Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, ENDESA, Eni, Eskom, FPL Group, General Electric, Iberdrola, ING, Interface, Marsh & McLennan Companies, Munich Re, NRG Energy, Patagonia, Ricoh, Stora Enso North America, Suntech Power, Swiss Re, Vattenfall, World Petroleum Council, and many others.