Chemical companies included in policy document ahead of G8 summit in Japan

Business leaders from more than 90 of the world’s largest companies, including major chemical companies, have endorsed a policy framework for tackling climate change ahead of July’s G8 summit in Japan.

The climate blueprint delivered to Japanese prime minister Yasuo Fukuda represents the consensus from firms across many industries and regions - including Alcoa, Akzo Nobel, Shell, Bayer, BP, Reliance Industries and Mitsubishi Chemical. 

It calls for ’aspirational targets’ to cut greenhouse gas emissions - such as halving global carbon emissions by 2050 - to be supported by clear interim targets in individual countries, with developed nations taking a lead. The key to success will be creating economic incentives for reducing emissions - which means developing an international carbon trading market, and government policies that don’t merely set top-down targets, but encourage businesses to invest in energy efficiency and clean technologies. 

’This is a call for concerted international action from some of most powerful and highest-emitting industries in the world. The recommendations all seem to have been well thought through, with good reference to the scientific evidence base,’ says Dave Reay, an atmospheric and climate scientist at the University of Edinburgh, UK.

Dominic Waughray, director of environmental initiatives at the World Economic Forum, who organised the statement, says international business agreement is a ’key staging post’ in the run-up to hammering out a new climate policy to the Kyoto Protocol, expected at a UN summit in Copenhagen in December 2009.  

Down to business

The detailed recommendations are neither controversial nor surprising - the aspirations are more conservative than some environmental groups have been calling for - but contain what Reay calls some ’hard truths’ that policymakers will have to take on board.

Among these are pointers to the weak progress on carbon capture and storage technology - mentioned, along with photovoltaics and fourth generation nuclear power, as crucial non-mature technologies which have to be encouraged by enhancing R&D.  ’If all new coal-fired electricity generation plants are not operating with CCS from 2015 to 2020 onward, it will be difficult to realise the target of a 50 per cent reduction in global emissions by 2050,’ the framework states.   

Also crucial is agreeing common standards of carbon accounting to make sense of declarations about emissions cuts. Though some good protocols exist and need wider uptake, says Waughray, most metrics are ’a wealth of well-meaning approaches which are difficult to compare with each other’.

The policy framework was created following the request of governments to business leaders at the 2005 Gleneagles, Scotland G8 summit. ’No longer can presidents and prime ministers give a cold shoulder to far-reaching emissions cuts on the basis that they would harm business, now it is big business that is demanding those very cuts,’ sums up Reay. ’If money talks, this shouts’. 

Richard Van Noorden

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