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The Guardian (UK): Businesses call for urgent action on climate change: “In a letter addressed to the prime minister, Tony Blair, HSBC, Shell, BP and others said there was a need to take urgent action now to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.” ( 27 May 05


Mark Tran

Friday May 27, 2005


The right government policy on climate change could minimise costs to business and need not harm competitiveness, 13 of Britain's most powerful companies said today.

In a letter addressed to the prime minister, Tony Blair, HSBC, Shell, BP and others said there was a need to take urgent action now to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.


They pledged to engage other businesses, the UK public, governments and international businesses to back the effort.


The companies - which between them employ tens of thousands of people and have a turnover of £452bn - said the private sector and government were caught in a Catch 22 situation that they wanted to help resolve.


"Governments tend to feel limited in their ability to introduce new policies for reducing emissions because they fear business resistance, while companies are unable to take their investments in low carbon solutions to scale because of lack of long-term policies," the letter said.


Publication of the letter, under the auspices of the Prince of Wales Business and Environment programme, came as Mr Blair visited Rome on the first stage of a whirlwind diplomatic mission ahead of the G8 summit in Gleneagles.


In his capacity as the G8 president, the prime minister is seeking to drum up support for his plans to cancel worldwide debt for Africa and secure an agreement on moves to combat climate change.


The government has promised to cut carbon dioxide levels by 20% by 2010 (based on 1990 levels) and 60% by 2050. However, emissions have risen since Labour came to power in 1997, and the meeting of those targets is already in doubt.


Carbon dioxide levels are now 3% higher than they were in 1997, and the government has admitted, according to the environmental group Friends of the Earth, that current climate change strategy is inadequate for meeting its 2010 target.


Friends of the Earth this week challenged the government to bring in a new climate change law that would force it to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, by 3% every year.


"This would mean the UK was genuinely leading the world on climate change," Friends of the Earth said in a statement. "It would provide far greater certainty for the environment and for the industries that need to change to tackle climate change."

In their letter, the 13 UK companies also called for a climate change policy that would create greater certainty about the long-term value of emission reductions. They urged the government to set targets for emissions trading and other related policies beyond 2012.


"We believe that in order to ensure that the long-term investments that our companies make are consistent with a shift to a low-carbon economy, these policies should set targets now for the year to 2025," the letter said.


The companies also called on the government to eliminate "policy inconsistencies that undermine the effectiveness of climate policy." They suggested officials assess the impact on carbon emissions of all new legislation and regulation to deal with the risk of "perverse and inconsistent policy."


Environmentalists have accused the government of undercutting its own climate change credentials by undertaking large road-building programmes and expanding airports.


The Confederation of British Industry has opposed some of the government's climate change initiatives, particularly the climate change levy, a tax on the use of energy in industry. The CBI also successfully lobbied against proposed emission cuts last year on the grounds that they would hurt British business.


However, the letter's signatories urged the government to be brave, saying: "We believe that bold policy action to promote low-carbon investment will create long-term competitive advantages for the UK.",,1494083,00.html


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