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Business Leaders' Climate Emissions Pledge Frustrates Many
COPENHAGEN, Denmark, May 26, 2009 (ENS) - World business leaders gathered in Copenhagen today threw their support behind "ambitious and effective" global action on climate change at the UN climate conference that Denmark will host in December.

At the conclusion of the three-day World Business Summit on Climate Change, some 700 delegates from businesses around the world called for a new global climate treaty that sets targets for emissions reductions by 2020 and 2050 that limit the global average rise in temperature to a maximum of two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.

Global greenhouse gases "must peak and begin to reduce within the next decade," the delegates said in their joint declaration of intent, the Copenhagen Call.

But the aid agency Oxfam International, which attended the Summit, called the declaration "disappointing." Oxfam Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs said, "The Summit's communique is unchanged from the draft that was written at the start of the meeting. It's a mystery how such influential and passionate voices could demand more urgency and specific commitments from the global business community from Ban Ki-Moon, to Al Gore, to progressive businesses only to be ignored in the final statement."

In that final statement, business leaders declared their support for the scientific evidence in the Fourth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued in 2007. They expressed concern "that some recent scientific evidence suggests the problem may be worse than many of the IPCC estimates."

Business in Action panel: from left, Sir Crispin Tickell, Oxford, UK; Anders Eldrup, president and CEO, DONG Energy, Denmark; Samuel A. DiPiazza Jr., CEO, PricewaterhouseCoopers; Jim Rogers, president and CEO Duke Energy USA; David Blood, partner, Generation Investment Management, UK; and Shai Agassi, CEO, Better Place, USA. (Photo courtesy Copenhagen Climate Council)
The IPCC's 4th Assessment Report indicates that global greenhouse gas emissions must fall by at least half of 1990 levels by 2050, a target the business leaders endorsed.

This target will require "immediate and substantial change in the current global greenhouse gases emission trend," leading to an abatement by 2020 of around 17 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases versus business-as-usual, the Copenhagen Call states.

Emissions reduction at this scale will profoundly affect business but, the delegates said, "We believe that working to reduce emissions now is less costly than delaying our efforts. There is nothing to be gained through delay."

"The deepest reductions should initially be made by developed economies though global emissions reduction will require all nations to play a part," the business leaders said in the Call.

"Economic recovery and urgent action to tackle climate change are complementary boosting the economy and jobs through investment in the new infrastructure needed to reduce emissions," the Call states.

"The ambition of the Copenhagen Call shows that business need not be a conservative voice on climate change. Many of the businesses represented at this significant event in the lead up to COP15 want brave decisions that will tackle this most wicked of problems," said Tim Flannery, who chairs the Copenhagen Climate Council, which convened the World Business Summit on Climate Change.

In the Business in Action panel, Samuel DiPiazza Jr., CEO of PricewaterhouseCoopers, recognized the frustration of participants such as Hobbs, saying the danger at this summit is too much self-congratulation among participants and not enough realistic discussion of what needs to be done before the Copenhagen negotiations in December and what needs to be done later.

"If there's frustration out there," he said, "I think the frustration is probably real and needed."

"Frankly," said DiPiazza, "if we shoot too low now and don't force aggressive targets in Copenhagen and set a benchmark, then 2020 is going to come and go 2050 is going to come and go and business is going to have a hard time in the second half of the century. It's not helpful to say publicly we're supportive and privately not have a clue what we're talking about."

"I think we have to get down to the specifics," he said. "If we say we want to reduce emissions by 2050 by 40 to 50 percent, what will that take?"

Duke's Belews Creek coal-fired power plant in North Carolina ranks among the most efficient in the U.S. (Photo courtesy Massey Energy)

"The Waxman bill that everyone's really excited about has a 17 percent number by 2020, I think that's not aggressive enough," said DiPiazza. "It's not going to solve the 2020 benchmark or 2050 targets. Does business really understand that this means we're going to have to operate business models differently. Between now and December, organizations like all the groups here, we've got to put a consistent voice on the table and get away from rhetoric."

On the same panel, Jim Rogers, president and CEO of Duke Energy, said "a lot of happy talk" will not solve the climate change problems or help Duke to provide "affordable, reliable, clean electricity in a world where electrification is growing and electric cars are growing even more."

"It's not going to be cheap, it's not going to be easy, and it's not going to be quick," he said, "but we've got to go to work on the transition now."

Rogers urged a "hard, direct conversation" about what must get done to achieve these objectives by the steel, chemical, and the cement industries as well as by consumers.

"We have to talk honestly about what these targets mean," said Rogers. "What does it mean for a company like ours? We'll have to retire and replace or radically transform every one of our power plants. We're the third largest emitter of CO2 in the United States, we're heavily reliant on coal. Can we do that? And if we can't do that, we will have failed."

In the Call, business leaders said a new treaty "must support deployment of low carbon solutions by encouraging incentives for public and private purchasers to choose the lowest emissions infrastructure and technologies and for investors to account for climate risk in their decisions."

"The new climate treaty must 'push' the development of new technologies through the use of public funds to leverage private finance in early stage demonstration and deployment," the Call states. "This will require policy measures that create clear, predictable, long-term incentives to stimulate private investment and enable the global diffusion of capital and technology."

Eric Rasmussen (Photo courtesy Copenhagen Climate Council)

Erik Rasmussen, founder of the Copenhagen Climate Council, explains, "Reducing the emissions that until now have been so linked to our economic growth and betterment will be an enormous, unprecedented global challenge but will also provide significant opportunities for sustainable growth, green jobs, development and innovation."

Oxfam's Hobbs said the business leaders did not call for greenhouse gas emissions cuts that are deep enough to meet the scale of the climate change problem. "The Summit's statement is only a tiny step in pushing for the right political recipe when it could have been a giant stride. It asked for 50 percent global cuts by 2050 when we need at least 80 percent. It mentioned mid-term cuts by 2020 but gave no number, we need at least 40 percent in developed counties. It mentioned the importance of adaptation finance to poor countries but again no number, we need at least $50 billion a year," Hobbs said. "These are all deal-breaking issues that this Summit should have tackled but did not."

A few of the participants in the World Business Summit on Climate Change: Suntech Power, China; Goldman Sachs, United States; BP Alternative Energy International Ltd., United Kingdom; Siemens, Germany; PricewaterhouseCoopers, United States; Environment Business Australia; Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company; Unilever, The Netherlands; Novo Nordisk A/S, Denmark; Fujitsu Ltd., Japan; PT Indosat, Indonesia; Duke Energy, United States; Wipro Technologies, India; PepsiCo, United States; Eskom, South Africa; Deutsche Bank Group; Merrill Lynch, UK; and DONG Energy, Denmark.

Environmental and aid groups attending include: Greenpeace International, WWF International, Oxfam, and the Bellona Foundation from Norway.

The Copenhagen Call lists six steps needed to set a firm foundation for a sustainable economic future:

  1. Agreement on a science-based greenhouse gas stabilization path with 2020 and 2050 emissions reduction targets that will achieve it
  2. Effective measurement, reporting and verification of emissions performance by business
  3. Incentives for a dramatic increase in financing low emissions technologies
  4. Deployment of existing low-emissions technologies and the development of new ones
  5. Funds to make communities more resilient and able to adapt to the effects of climate change
  6. Means to finance forest protection
Presented to Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Yvo de Boer, the Copenhagen Call will be taken forward by them in to the last six months of negotiations before the UN climate change conference in December.

The largest political conference ever held in Denmark, participants are expected from most of the 192 countries represented in the United Nations, both from governments and from civil society. All together, up to 15,000 official representatives are expected to participate.

Leading up to the December conference, 12 days of detailed negotiations among government representatives will open June 1 in Bonn, Germany. Among items on the agenda are - future commitments for industrialized countries that are governed by the Kyoto Protocol, carbon dioxide capture and storage, emissions from aviation and maritime transport, technology transfer to developing countries, reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries, and a financial review.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.

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