LONDON A coalition of more than 500 international companies on Tuesday urged rich countries to commit to "immediate and deep" cuts in greenhouse gas emissions at U.N. climate talks to help combat global warming.
The group of some of the world's biggest energy companies, retailers and manufacturers said a failure to agree a strong new climate deal at U.N. talks in Copenhagen in December would erode confidence and cut investment in low-carbon technology.
In a statement issued as nations met for a climate summit at the United Nations in New York, the coalition said economic development will be impossible without a stable climate.
"These are difficult and challenging times for the international business community and a poor outcome from...Copenhagen will only make them more so," it said.
"If a sufficiently ambitious, effective and globally equitable deal can be agreed, it will...deliver the economic signals that companies need if they are to invest billions of dollars in low carbon products, services, technologies and infrastructure."
The statement was issued by companies who back a campaign by Britain's Prince Charles, heir to the throne and environmental campaigner, to press for new government policies on climate change and "to grasp the business opportunities created by moving to a low climate-risk economy."
Members of the prince's Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change include Britain's largest retailer Tesco, German insurer Allianz and Royal Dutch Shell, Europe's largest oil company by market value. Launched in 2005, it is managed for the prince by the University of Cambridge.
Disagreements between rich and poor countries over emissions caps and how much money emerging economies should receive to cope with climate change have hampered preliminary talks before the U.N. negotiations in the Danish capital.
The business group urged nations to set aside their differences and confront climate change with the same urgent, joint approach they took during the economic crisis.
"Developed countries need to take on immediate and deep emission reduction commitments that are much higher than the global average," the statement added.
(Editing by Jon Boyle)