Industry calls for new UN climate change agreement

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Climate change, Kyoto protocol

Major food and drink companies such as Nestle are part of an
industry group calling on the world's leaders to forge a binding UN
agreement to tackle climate change.

The call from 150 companies across a variety of industry sectors comes as 130 environment ministers begin meeting today in Bali, Indonesia at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The fact that at least six of the top food and drink companies have joined in the call underscores the importance of climate change programmes to the industry as it tries to adjust to regulatory and consumer pressures to lower CO2 outputs. It also represents a pro-active stance by the companies, who now seem to accept that such greenhouse gas reduction programmes are inevitable and that the best stance is to help shape the debate. Such a call emphasises that in setting CO2 emissions targets targets would be biding rather than voluntary, a significant shift by industry from its normal tendency to argue for self-regulation. The companies are part of the UK's Corporate Leaders Groups on Climate Change, which has included US, EU, and Asian representation in the Bali announcement. "As business leaders, it is our belief that the benefits of strong, early action on climate change outweigh the costs of not acting, "​ the communiqué stated. The statement notes that the costs of action are "manageable" but that each year of delay will result in greater disruption. The leaders also state that "The shift to a low-carbon economy will create significant business opportunities". The UK's Prince Charles, who formed the group, said he hoped the corporate communiqué "will strengthen the resolve of those gathered in Bali to make the tough decisions the world so urgently needs". The communiqué notes that "The scientific evidence is now overwhelming" and that "climate change presents very serious global social, environmental and economic risks and it demands an urgent global response". The 150 global companies also stated that a "sufficiently ambitious, international and comprehensive legally-binding United Nations agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will provide business with the certainty it needs to scale up global investment in low-carbon technologies".​ The business leaders also called for a UN framework in which overall targets for emissions reduction would be guided primarily by science. "This is in contrast to the argument that has previously been made by some parts of the business community that it is concerned over competitiveness and cost that should set the limit of emission cuts,"​ according to a press release from the group. The group noted that evidence from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) already points to a reduction being required of at least 50 per cent by 2050. The "greatest effort" will need to be made by those countries that have already industrialised, the group stated. The companies also called on world leaders to "seize this window of opportunity" and agree a "work-plan of comprehensive negotiations" to ensure an agreement can come into force after 2012, when the existing Kyoto Protocol on climate change expires. The Kyoto Protocol led to such CO2 reduction programmes as the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which set a world market price on carbon trading among companies. Companies in support of the communiqué include Coca-Cola, Nestle, Kingfisher, Unilever, Cadbury Schweppes and Diaego. Clients such as supermarket chains Tesco and Sainsbury's, and packaging supplier Tetra Pak, have also signed the communiqué. The UN conference in Bali start on 3 December and closes on 14 December.

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