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Corporations Join Enviros In Global Warming Alliance

by Danielle Knight

"This is about being competitive"
(IPS) WASHINGTON -- A rare combination of automobile, oil, chemical and environmental leaders announced a joint plan of action October 28 to reduce "greenhouse gas" emissions blamed for global warming.

"We believe that finding common ground and understanding differences among business, government, and environmental interests is critical to ensure both a safe climate and a sound business outcome," they declared at a news conference in Washington.

The energy giants represented were from Monsanto, General Motors (GM) and British Petroleum America (BP) who joined the environmental group World Resources Institute in the new initiative on combatting climate change.

Risking the criticism of hard-line environmentalists, Jonathan Lash, president of the Washington-based World Resources Institute, said he was committed to working with the industrial corporations.

"We don't have to be paralyzed by the political process," he said. "These companies embrace the need for action on climate now and show good environmental and good business sense."

The industries in the coalition maintained their interest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions was not merely to improve their image but because investing in renewable energy would make them more successful in the future.

"By acknowledging climate change and changing our business as usual approach we are aiming to keep at bay not controversy but competition," said Steven W. Percy, chairman and CEO of BP. "This is about being competitive in long-term markets -- renewables, solar, fuel cells and natural gas."

about Global Climate Coalition
BP and other industries caused a major stir in the fossil fuel business community when they decided not to be part of the Global Climate Coalition, a multinational business bloc that spent $13 million to thwart the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

BP announced in 1997 that it agreed with scientists that the cause of global warming stems from carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released through the burning of fossil fuels, including coal, oil and gas. Failure to reduce these emissions would increase temperatures around the world and also the risk of storms, floods, heat waves and droughts, according to scientists.

Nearly all countries of the world also agreed with scientists when they gathered in the Japanese city of Kyoto last December to negotiate the climate change agreement.

To deal with the threat, industrialized nations agreed to reduce the emissions of six greenhouse gases by an average of six percent from 1990 levels, and to complete the reductions between 2008 and 2012.

The Kyoto Protocol, however, currently is bogged down in an international political quagmire over details of the agreement -- including the participation of developing countries. Many energy concerns, including Chevron and Exxon, have warned that any attempt to reduce emissions will harm the economy, but the new coalition seeks to prove that policies that protect the climate can also expand the economy.

While members of the coalition hold different opinions on the Kyoto Protocol, they agree that urgent action is needed to prevent climate change.

"This is not about the Kyoto Protocol," said Jonathan Lash, "This is not a coalition built around political goals... it is about commitments to concrete actions that BP, Monsanto, GM and World Resources agree will protect the climate and expand economic prosperity."

The BP-Monsanto-GM-World Resources coalition has evaluated scenarios for meeting future world energy demand and explored the viability of new technologies and potential business opportunities that were good for the global climate.

They agreed on a number of policies that government could implement to encourage businesses reduce emissions -- including eliminating subsidies on fossil fuels. Corporations also agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from worldwide facilities, products, and supply chains. This included increased investments in renewable energy and increased energy efficiency of their operations.

They said they would measure, track and openly report greenhouse gas emissions from their operations and develop new cost-effective technologies, products and business ventures that minimized emissions.

For its part, GM, the largest U.S. automobile manufacturer, vowed to invest in technologies that increased fuel efficiency of its vehicles and that of its manufacturing facilities.

But, GM's Vice President of Public Policy Dennis Minano, while listing many new technologies in which GM was investing -- including natural gas-powered and electric vehicles -- admitted that his corporation did not support auto efficiency standards.

Because emissions from transportation contribute to approximately one-third of the total greenhouse gases, according to World Resources Institute reports, increasing the fuel efficiency standards for vehicles has been high on environmental groups' agendas.

Yet, Minano said, "Higher standards is not the correct direction forward."

BP pledged ten-fold investment in solar technology
Monsanto, the chemical and biotechnology giant, under fire from environmental groups for its controversial biotechnology and seed products -- said that, as part of its commitment, it was researching and promoting conservation tillage.

While minimal in comparison to reducing industrial emissions, this practice where farmers eliminated plowing and instead planted seeds through post-harvest vegetation, reduced the amount of carbon released from the soil and reduced erosion.

BP made more impressive commitments with its set goal of reducing the oil company's emissions by 10 percent below 1990 levels -- a commitment that far exceeded the goals set for industrialized countries under the Kyoto treaty.

The company also set up an internal system for trading emissions with help from the Environmental Defense Fund and pledged to increase its investment in solar technologies ten-fold, as part of its general strategy to build a new renewable energy market.

"I think you'll start to see other oil companies move in this direction as they see the value of these investments in the long- term," said Percy.

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Albion Monitor November 16, 1998 (

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