Industry joins Greenpeace to demand climate action

An array of big businesses joined forces with an unlikely ally on Wednesday to call on governments meeting at the Earth Summit to take clear action to tackle global climate change.

A group representing some 160 multinationals made a joint statement with the environmental group Greenpeace, usually a corporate bete noire, calling on world leaders for an international system for halting global warming.

The statement by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)—which counts Caterpillar, Ford Motor Co, Dow Chemical, ICI and Sony among its members—stopped just short of fully endorsing the Kyoto pact on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“We call for governments to tackle climate change on the basis of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol. We both agree that this is the essential first step,” Greenpeace Political Director Remi Parmentier said.

WBCSD head Bjorn Stigson, who read the statement out loud with Parmentier, said pro-active companies needed a “level playing field” internationally so that firms that made efforts to curb emissions knew what they stood to gain or lose.

But Stigson added later that the WBCSD, which has many members based in the United States—which has rejected the 1997 Kyoto pact on cutting emissions—was not necessarily calling on world leaders to ratify that pact.

“The Kyoto Protocol contains seeds that are important for the international global framework,” Stigson told Reuters.

“It is a rather difficult thing just to say you have to just implement the Kyoto Protocol as some people are saying, because that will not happen in a number of countries…but that doesn’t mean you should not have an international framework.”

GREENWASH

Despite that reservation, both sides said the fact that they were making a joint statement at all was remarkable.

At the first Earth Summit in Rio 10 years ago where the UN climate convention was agreed, Greenpeace accused many members of the then newly created WBCSD of “greenwash”—hiding bad environmental practice behind cosy rhetoric.

“We are shelving our differences on this important issue,” Parmentier said.

Kyoto was dealt a potentially fatal blow when the United States, under President George W. Bush, pulled out last year.
The rest of the world can still go ahead, but only if most other developed countries ratify.

The 10-day World Summit on Sustainable Development which concludes next week is due to produce an action plan for stopping environmental degradation while improving the lot of the world’s poor.

Climate change is likely to be mentioned only in passing, but environmentalists are hoping plan will include a target for boosting non-polluting renewable energies like wind and solar. - Reuters

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