Industry should play its part in the fight against climate change by persuading governments to boost carbon cuts rather than lobbying against them, the U.N. Secretary-General told a business conference.
Business leaders met in Denmark on Sunday to try to unite behind a call for long-term climate policies on oil, power and technology 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For those who are directly or implicitly lobbying against climate action I have a clear message: your ideas are out of date and you are running out of time, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a meeting of more than 500 business leaders.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 leading position in wind power was proof that fighting climate change could be lucrative.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies are our fastest growing exports right now. That's the message to businesses here: put pressure on governments, that this is not just about idealism. This is not anti-growth.
Low-carbon companies may also benefit from more motivated staff and attract shareholders who only invest in climate-friendly business.
The greener our agenda is, the better talent we get, said Ditlev Engel, the chief executive of Denmark's Vestas, the world's biggest wind turbine maker.
The May 24-26 World Business Summit on Climate Change brought together top executives from energy and technology companies and political leaders.
Fossil fuel industries such as oil and coal, may lose out from measures to boost low-carbon alternatives and want time and clear policies such as carbon prices to prepare. Other companies want to know what type of technology to invest in.
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.
It's a short-term concern, Joubert told Reuters, referring to the impact on coal plant financing of some decisions by U.S. authorities not to issue construction permits.
Alstom was piloting technologies to trap carbon emissions from fossil fuel plants, he said.
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, afraid that polluting rivals elsewhere may 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 and avoid a future climate crisis and energy crunch worse than the present recession.
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.
(Writing by Gerard Wynn; editing by Philippa Fletcher)