They have issued the Copenhagen Communique calling on world leaders to agree "an ambitious, robust and equitable global deal on climate change that responds credibly to the scale and urgency of the crisis facing the world today."
A copy of the document was handed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and distributed to more than 100 heads of state and government who attended the UN Summit on Climate Change Tuesday in New York.
"These are difficult and challenging times for the international business community and a poor outcome from the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen will only make them more so, by creating uncertainty and undermining confidence," the business leaders state in the communique.
They warn that, "Economic development will not be sustained in the longer term unless the climate is stabilised" and say it is "critical" that "we exit this recession in a way that lays the foundation for low-carbon growth and avoids locking us into a high carbon future."
British Airways plane somewhere over The Netherlands (Photo by Francoise Roche)
The communique calls for, "Measures to deliver a robust global greenhouse gas emissions market in order to provide the most effective, efficient and equitable emission reductions. It would be comprised of a growing series of national or regional 'cap-and-trade' markets linked together, in which the "caps" are brought down in line with the targets that have been adopted for emission reduction."
The Copenhagen Communique has the support of companies from the United States, the European Union, Japan, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Shell UK Chairman James Smith said, "The solutions to climate change are there to be grasped, but time is short. In Copenhagen, nations will have to find common purpose as never before and clear the way for a truly global carbon market, underpinned by cap-and-trade and low carbon technologies."
Nike Chairman Mike Parker said, "As a company built on innovation and performance, Nike is translating that passion into advocacy for strong environmental action and leadership. With operations across six continents we believe that an effective international framework is necessary for climate and sustainability progress to be made across borders."
British Airways CEO Willie Walsh said, "I signed the Communique on behalf of British Airways because we believe Copenhagen can make a real difference and specifically can enable the aviation industry to play its full part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tackling climate change."
London skyline with the headquarters building of reinsurance company SwissRe, one of the Copenhagen Communique signatories. (Photo by Wayne Huzzey)
The Copenhagen Communique is an initiative of The Prince of Wales's Corporate Leaders' Group on Climate Change, which is run by The University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership.
"It has been extraordinary to see the level of support that has come in from the international business community for The Copenhagen communique – from companies in the developed and developing world, across all sectors, ranging from the world's largest companies and best-known brands, to small and medium sized enterprises," said Craig Bennett, co-director of The Prince of Wales's Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change.
"If it is possible for such a variety of companies to agree on the basic shape of an ambitious, robust and equitable global deal on climate change – surely it should now be possible for the world's governments to do the same?" Bennett said.
In their communique, the business leaders call for an agreement that establishes "a global emissions cap and long-term reduction pathway for all greenhouse gas emissions and sources, for the period 2013 to 2050 (with interim targets)."
They call for, "Credible measurement, reporting and verification of emissions, which are vital to measuring progress against the objectives of an effective climate treaty."
They offer support for the emerging consensus to limit global average temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.
They recognize that this goal will require global emissions to peak and begin to decline rapidly within the next decade and reduce 50 to 85 percent by 2050.
Developed countries must take on "immediate and deep emission reduction commitments" and "demonstrate that low-carbon growth is both achievable and desirable" and in addition they must provide the necessary financial and technological assistance to developing countries, the business leaders state.
Log boom operations at the Western Forest Products' Gold River Mill in British Columbia (Photo by Tim Gage)
They call on developing countries to draw up their own emission reduction plans, and call on advanced developing countries to adopt economy-wide commitments by 2020.
An immediate interim emergency package to provide substantial funding to tropical forest nations to help them halt deforestation, is an important feature of the communique, the business leaders state, recognizing that rainforest destruction accounts for up to one-fifth of annual greenhouse gas emissions.
Avrim Lazar, president and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada, said, "It has become abundantly clear to Canadian forestry companies that an innovative, sustainably-managed industry can have a profoundly positive impact on climate change. That's why our Association members have met Kyoto GHG reduction targets 10 times over and have committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2015."
The issue of financing for climate change mitigation and adaptation is one of the most contentious issues under negotiation, with estimates suggesting that between US$100-200 billion will be needed annually by 2030 to help developing countries reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change.
In the communique, the business leaders maintain that "the costs of transition are manageable, even in the current economic climate."
They conclude by stating, "The more ambitious the framework, the more business will deliver" but warn, "The one thing we do not have is time. Delay is not an option."
Global partners in support of the initiative include The Climate Group, The UN Global Compact and WWF-International along with business associations and initiatives from around the world.
The full text of The Copenhagen communique is available in 19 different languages at www.copenhagencommunique.com, in addition to the complete list of the 603 companies that have endorsed it to date.
Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.