Industry calls for urgent action on climate change

Tackling climate change is in the interests of big business - that is the message industry leaders are putting out by writing to Tony Blair calling for urgent action on the environment.

A group of CEOs and senior executives from 13 powerful national and multinational companies has written to the Prime Minister offering to back any Government plans to develop longer-term policies to combat climate change.

The corporate high flyers have come together under the aegis of The Prince of Wales’ Business and the Environment Programme and say they want to reassure policy makers that the perceived resistance from business to anti-emission legislation just is not there.

They argue that investing in a low-carbon future should be a strategic business objective for UK plc as a whole.

The list of signatories includes top names from oil giants BP and Shell and leading airport corporation BAA, companies that some may see as part of the problem.

With the approaching G8 Summit at Gleneagles expected to achieve little progress on climate change, some will see the letter as an attempt by business to wash their hands of any failure or use it as insurance against Government attempts to play the post talks blame-game.

But the industrialists have offered assurances this is not the case and the letter stems from a genuine desire to face up to the challenges of climate change and invest in a more sustainable future.

Their argument is that the fact big names often linked with carbon dioxide emissions are backing the letter underlines, not undermines, their serious intent.

As well as pledging their own backing the corporate leaders have offered to approach others in the business community and woo the public to persuade them of the benefits of tackling climate change head on, they say to smooth the way for any Government proposals.

In the letter, the corporate leaders say that their main concern is about how they “as business leaders can help bridge the gap between today’s economy and the radically different low-carbon future that will be needed” to deliver the Government’s stated aim of reducing emissions by 60% by the year 2050.

The signatories point out that they and other companies have already made significant investments in low-carbon technologies, processes and products, but say that “what we have done so far is not nearly sufficient given the size of the challenge facing us”.

The Corporate Leaders Group is made up of high flyers from ABN Amro, AWG, BAA, BP, Cisco Systems, F&C Asset Management, HSBC, John Lewis Partnership, Johnson Matthey, Scottish Power, Shell, Standard Chartered Bank and Sun Microsystems.

Welcoming the Corporate Leaders Group’s report, The Prince of Wales said: “A challenge of the magnitude of climate change requires a co-ordinated response, based on actions across every sector of society, and the business community is going to be critical in achieving this. The role these companies are offering to play is highly strategic – essentially helping to create a political space in which effective policies can be introduced and global progress can be achieved.”

The letter has also been welcomed by the Liberal Democrats, who argue Government has said much but done little to address climate change and its impacts.

Norman Baker MP, Liberal Democrat spokesman for the environment, responding to the letter, said: “The Prime Minister has said that climate change is the biggest threat faced by the world, but measures to tackle it did not feature in his election campaign or in the subsequent Queen’s Speech.

“The cost of environmental damage and inaction to the economy in 2004 was a massive £67 billion.

“Responsible environmental action is ultimately economically sensible.”

By Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie