COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Industry should play its part in the fight against climate change by persuading governments to aid carbon cuts rather than lobbying against them, the U.N. Secretary-General told a business conference on Sunday.
Business leaders met in Denmark to try to unite behind a common call for long-term climate policies, ahead of a U.N. conference in December meant to forge a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
“For those who are directly or implicitly lobbying against climate action I have a clear message: your ideas are out of date and you are running out of time,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a meeting of more than 500 business leaders.
“The smart money is on the green economy,” he said. “Leaders sometimes are weak because they are short-sighted to get the votes,” he added, urging businesses to lobby for carbon cuts.
Danish Environment, Climate and Energy Minister Connie Hedegaard, who hosts the U.N.-led December conference, said Denmark’s exports of wind power technologies were proof that fighting climate change could be lucrative.
“That’s the message to businesses here: put pressure on governments, that this is not just about idealism,” she said.
The May 24-26 World Business Summit on Climate Change brings together top executives from energy and technology companies and political leaders.
Ban, in an interview with Reuters, also said that a draft U.S. climate bill, which aims to cut U.S. greenhouse gases by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, did not go far enough.
Asked if he was urging Washington to do more, the U.N. chief replied: “That’s what I have been doing and will continue to do.”
Fossil fuel industries, such as oil and coal, may lose out from measures to boost low-carbon alternatives and want time and clear policies, for example on carbon prices, to invest. Other companies want to know what technologies to choose.
“We need clear direction and long-term leadership,” said Philippe Joubert, president of Alstom Power, the electricity generation arm of the global French engineering firm Alstom SA which makes components for coal, gas and renewable energy power plants.
The aviation industry wanted a global approach to fighting climate change, said the head of the International Air Transport Association, Giovanni Bisignani. Businesses want global steps, so that polluting rivals elsewhere don’t get an easier ride.
Environment experts and lobbyists argue that “green” spending to create jobs can help re-build leaner economies run on wind and solar power, helping to avoid a worse climate crisis.
“The climate crisis, economic crisis and energy security concerns will begin to unravel if we start a shift away from expensive, vulnerable and polluting carbon-based fuels,” former U.S. vice-president and campaigner Al Gore told the conference.
Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, expressed cautious optimism ahead of the December conference. “I think there is a good chance that things will happen,” he said.
China’s official in charge of climate change policy struck a similar note. “I do believe that political wisdom can help us find solutions acceptable to all parties,” said Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission. “I’m looking forward to the success of the meeting.”
Additional reporting by Karin Jensen and Peter Levring; writing by Gerard Wynn; editing by Mark Trevelyan