WASHINGTON – Some of the world's top business leaders are demanding that international diplomats meeting next week come up with drastic and urgent measures to cut greenhouse gas pollution at least in half by 2050.
Officials from more than 150 global companies — worth nearly $4 trillion in market capitalization — have signed a petition urging "strong, early action on climate change" when political leaders meet in Indonesia.
The hastily prepared petition drive, coordinated through the environmental office of Britain's Prince Charles, is signed by leaders from mainstream powerhouse companies such as Shell UK, GE International, Coca-Cola Co., Dupont Co., United Technologies Corp., Rolls Royce, Nestle SA, Unilever, British Airways and Volkswagen AG.
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The petition, entitled the Bali Communiqué, is aimed at the United Nations conference in Bali, convened to draft a new environmental treaty to replace the Kyoto accord, which expires in 2012.
"We urge world leaders to seize this opportunity," the petition says.
Contrary to the argument that mandatory pollution cuts would harm the economy, the business leaders' petition says ambitious emissions reductions would "create significant business opportunities."
"You've got businesses around the world saying, 'Give us certainty so we can do what's right for our investors, society at large and the broader environment,'" said Richard Barrington, head of sustainability for Sun Microsystems in the United Kingdom and Ireland, whose boss signed the petition. "If you look at the risks associated with climate change, they're just as much business risks as they are human risks."
In the three weeks that the business leaders circulated the petition, primarily in the United Kingdom, Europe, the United States and Australia, more than 80 percent of the giant firms contacted agreed to join in, said petition coordinator Craig Bennett, of the University of Cambridge's Programme for Industry.
Just how drastic the cuts in man-made greenhouse gas emissions — carbon dioxide is the main one, generated mostly from the use of coal and oil products — should be left up to science, the business leaders said.
But their communique refers to a recent international report on climate change, which said a 50 percent cut in emissions by 2050 is needed to prevent catastrophic global warming.
Barrington said "that's the minimum order of what we're looking for."
"It's a massive problem for humanity; it's a huge problem for our businesses," Bennett said. "The politicians have got to sit up and do something."
In January, the CEOs of 10 major U.S. companies urged President Bush to support mandatory industrial greenhouse gas emission cuts. The White House is against that policy.
Since their January plea, the industry group, the United States Climate Action Partnership, has grown to include 27 of the world's largest firms.
Other companies signing the British-based petition include Nike Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Virgin Group, Barclays PLC, Gap, Nokia, Pacific Gas and Electric, and News Corp.
"There are voices that you may not normally expect to be heard on this particular issue," Barrington said. "It just shows how concerned we are about the issue."
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