Business leaders call for tougher emissions standards

24-08-2006

Prime minister Tony Blair has been lobbied by business leaders calling for tougher standards on carbon emissions.

United under the umbrella of the Prince of Wales' business and environment programme, 13 corporate leaders from companies including Tesco, Shell and Vodafone suggested in a meeting with Mr Blair that they believed greater action on the environment was needed by the government.

Today's meeting was a reversal of the usual lobbying process, with the government traditionally having had to enforce strict environmental rules at the cost of capitalistic urges towards profit at the cost of damage to the planet.

"We are convinced that we need to take urgent and informed action now if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Enabling a low-carbon future should be a strategic business objective for our companies and UK plc as a whole," the business leaders wrote in a letter to Mr Blair delivered today.

While some observers have suggested that the meeting is merely a PR attempt for participating companies to bolster their corporate social responsibility ratings, others have called this interpretation cynical and welcomed big business' commitment to the environment. Politicians, meanwhile, have taken the opportunity to attack the government's record on climate change.

"Progressive businesses understand that climate change is an opportunity as well as a challenge, and that Britain should be among the leaders in developing new carbon free technologies," Chris Huhne, Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, said.

"With business, NGOs and opposition politicians united in the call for tougher action on climate change, why will Tony Blair’s government not do more to combat the threat?"

Although the government has failed to meet its Kyoto protocol targets for cutting carbon emissions by 20 per cent in the two decades prior to 2010, it is likely to reach the lower ten per cent threshold set in the Japanese accords.

Speaking earlier today on the Today programme, environment secretary David Miliband argued that business leaders were saying that "stretching targets can be good for business, not bad".

"I think this is significant as well as the business leaders are saying we’ve got good policies – we just need to scale them up."

Today's meeting has not been met with universal support. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has continued to argue that imposing stricter reductions will instead have a negative effect, decreasing the UK’s competitiveness.

It called on the government to pressurise foreign countries such as India to improve their emissions standards in an effort to create a level playing field for British business.


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