COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Top executives from companies likely to win from climate change policies demanded on Tuesday that governments turn away from fossil fuels when they sign a new climate pact, expected in December.
Seven months before the world meets to try and thrash out a new global treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, executives and investors called for tough targets to slash carbon emissions at a green business conference in Copenhagen.
Denmark’s Prime Minister welcomed a statement drawn up by top executives from pro-green business, including wider industry comments, calling for aid to help clean technologies replace fossil fuels.
“There’s only one way forward and that is low-carbon growth, our world should no longer depend on fossil fuels,” said Lars Lokke Rasmussen, prime minister of a country which gets a fifth of its power from wind, and which hosts the U.N.-led climate negotiations in December.
“You hold in your hands the key to reshaping the world by bringing low-carbon products to the markets,” he told more than 500 executives attending the May 24-26 World Business Summit on Climate Change.
A “Copenhagen Climate Council” of 12 chief executives, as well as academics and development groups wrote a final statement which called for greenhouse gases to peak within a decade. They included the chiefs of DONG Energy, Vestas, Duke Energy, Virgin Group, Suntech Power and others.
“The new climate treaty must push the development of new technologies through public funds,” said the statement in its “Copenhagen Call.” “Governments should strive to end subsidies that favor high emissions transport and energy infrastructure.”
U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer told a news conference that while the participants had showed they want ambitious results in Copenhagen, they were “not entirely representative.”
“There are many companies that feel threatened by the prospect of badly designed climate policy,” he said.
“The challenge for political leaders in Copenhagen will be to craft a way forward which safeguards business interests to the extent possible and creates opportunities.”
On Sunday U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told business leaders at the meeting to lobby governments for low-carbon support instead of against high-carbon penalties, saying green technology was an opportunity.
European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said on Monday: “Achieving a 20 percent share for renewables could mean more than a million jobs in this industry by 2020,” referring to an EU energy target.
Some executives at the conference doubted the motives of big business, saying they talked green while carrying on as normal, for example investing in fossil fuels.
The chief executive of U.S. utility Duke Energy, James Rogers, said on Tuesday he may be building his last two coal plants, to bet instead on nuclear power.
Cleantech entrepreneurs called for more money for them, and less to pay big oil to clean up.
“We need to support the innovators,” said Shai Agassi, chief executive of electric car infrastructure company Better Place.
Australian scientist and campaigner Tim Flannery, one of the conference organizers, said climate change was harming his home country. “Water resources have dried out to the point where they’re now affecting the future of some of our cities. I’ve seen our agriculture wither and decline.”
In Paris, major economies including the United States, China, the European Union, Russia, India and Japan, met on Tuesday to seek common ground ahead of the December gathering.
Writing by Gerard Wynn; editing by Peter Blackburn