G8 business chiefs spar over climate change

World business chiefs gathered in Tokyo on Thursday to discuss ways to tackle global warming as transatlantic tensions emerged over how far industry should go to reduce emissions.

The heads of the business federations of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations agreed that climate change needs serious attention.

But in a joint statement issued after the one-day meeting they said companies should not be ”unduly penalised by unbalanced policy measures that would divert resources away from investments in innovation”.

Earlier in the gathering divisions emerged over whether companies are doing enough and how to respond to the problem.

”The question is not any more, ‘Should we go for it?’ The question now is, ‘How can we do it?”’ Laurence Parisot, president of the French Business Confederation, said of the need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

”France alone, or even the European Union alone, cannot solve everything. It seems to us, maybe we are wrong, but your commitment to this issue is not as high as we expect,” she told her United States counterpart during a panel discussion.

US Chamber of Commerce chairperson Paul Speranza Jnr, however, insisted that his country was committed to the fight, pointing to President George Bush’s call on Wednesday to stop the growth of US greenhouse-gas emissions by 2025.

But he added: ”We have to be mindful that we don’t want to hurt jobs. We don’t want to hurt economies. But we can go as quickly as technology will allow us to go. Americans sometimes are slow to get started, but once we do get started we probably will be up front.”

The Bush administration rejected the Kyoto treaty on global warming for its failure to apply binding gas targets on fast-growing China and India.

Japan, the current G8 chair, is home to the Kyoto Protocol, but it is far behind in meeting its own obligations as it recovers from a recession in the 1990s.

The government has so far refused to bind legally companies to cap gas emissions, fearing that it could jeopardise the Japanese economy’s slow recovery.

Cooperation from the business world is seen to be one of the keys in meeting the goal to tackle climate change.

”There are many ways to reduce greenhouse-gas emission, but the bottom line is [that it’s best] to do so through technological innovation,” said Fujio Mitarai, chairperson of the Japan Business Federation, which favours a sector-by-sector approach to reducing emissions.

Japan plans to put climate change high on the agenda for the G8 summit that it will host in July.

”Now is the time for not only politicians and industry but also individuals to recognise that humanity faces a turning point and to start taking action,” Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said in a speech at the start of the meeting. ”The industrial sector must not forget that it is the main emitter of greenhouse gases.”

Tokyo hopes the G8 summit — grouping Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the US — will give direction to negotiations on drafting the next global treaty on fighting climate change by the end of 2009. — Sapa-AFP

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