Captains of industry call for action on climate change

Jun 07 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Business leaders have called for the British government to put in place more road pricing and congestion charging initiatives to help curb greenhouse gases, but at the same time to reduce business rates for energy efficient buildings.

The Corporate Leaders' Group on Climate Change, a consortium of 14 top British businesses including Tesco, Shell, BAA, Standard Chartered Bank and B&Q, urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to impose tougher limits on greenhouse gas emissions from UK industry.

They also said government curbs on carbon dioxide emissions were needed to fuel the development of cleaner technologies.

Blair told the industry leaders: "Business leadership is critical if we are going to accelerate action on climate change, both nationally and internationally.

"Businesses like yours can help develop new clean technologies and can encourage governments to take bolder policy steps," he added.

The group, which has been brought together under the Prince of Wales's business and environment programme, said companies would only be encouraged to invest in low-carbon solutions if there were clear incentives to doing so.

The European Union needed to lay out clear, long-term emissions reduction targets for companies, they said.

James Smith, chairman of Shell UK, said: "We need EU governments to set clear targets to 2025 so that our businesses can have the confidence to make long-term investments in reducing emissions."

The business leaders also urged the government to make its procurement practices greener and to look at how rapidly industrialising nations such as India and China could be better helped to gain access to low-carbon forms of energy.

They also called on the government to look at how the UK's business and transport infrastructure could be adapted to cut emissions, including the use of variable road pricing and congestion charging.

Climate change and social responsibility is rapidly moving up the business agenda.

A U.S study last week by the National Consumers League and Fleishman-Hillard International Communications found businesses that want to be viewed by consumers as having a social conscience needed to put the treatment of their own employees at the top of their priority list before worrying about their record on the environment.

And British research in April suggested that nearly six out of 10 British workers believe their employers should donate a higher proportion of their profits to the protection of the environment Ė yet are unwilling to sacrifice their own benefits.