Washington (AFP) Jan 23, 2007
Some of corporate America's largest companies, including Alcoa, General Electric and DuPont, urged US President George W. Bush and Congress on Monday to act swiftly to tackle global warming. The chief executives of nine US corporations, who formed the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), displayed a united front as they called on Bush to support mandatory caps on businesses' greenhouse gas emissions.
"It's time for the nation's political leaders to come together and act," Duke Energy chief executive Jim Rogers told reporters at a press conference at the National Press Club here.
GE chief executive Jeffrey Immelt also called for action to cut greenhouse gases, which many scientists blame for global warming, saying: "We should have goals that are visible."
The corporate chieftains issued their call to arms a day before the US president makes his annual State of the Union speech. Some pundits believe Bush may address climate change in his remarks.
But White House press secretary Tony Snow said "binding economy-wide carbon caps" are not part of Bush's approach, and that the US president believes industry must come up with innovations to address climate change.
The administration withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, which seeks to curb greenhouses gases, in 2001.
Immelt said "information exchanges" had already occurred between the administration and USCAP over its objectives.
Asked by AFP if the White House was supportive of USCAP's stance, Immelt replied: "Yeah, but it's one of those things where you're going to have lots of different points of view.
"In general I would say it's a friendly discussion, not an unfriendly discussion."
The powerful coalition, whose members run dozens of industrial plants, also called for urgent US government action to implement a cap-and-trade program, which would enable the trading of emissions permits.
The CEOs said cuts in greenhouse gas emissions make sense environmentally, but also make good business sense and would help America cut its addiction to oil.
The CEOs of Alcoa, PG and E, Lehman Brothers, FPL Group, DuPont, Caterpillar, and PNM Resources also attended the press conference. BP America is a member of the alliance too.
The executives said the coalition had briefed a bipartisan group of lawmakers on its proposals, which are also laid out on the www.us-cap.org website, and said they wanted other firms to join their ranks.
Several bills on global warming have been inked by Democratic lawmakers since the party regained control of Congress this month from Bush's Republican party.
USCAP's members, who began meeting last summer, called on the new Democratic Congress to establish mandatory targets that would allow only a five percent rise in current US greenhouse gas emissions within five years of legislative action.
Future targets should then seek to cut emissions to between 70 and 90 percent of today's levels within fifteen years, and emissions should be slashed by between 60 and 80 percent from current levels by 2050.
The Texas utility TXU Corp. said in a statement that it supported some of USCAP's aims.
US corporations have shown increased concerns about global warming in recent years, especially since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf coast in August 2005.
Wal-Mart Stores opened its first "High-Efficiency" store in Missouri on Friday claiming it uses 20 percent less energy than its other superstores.
And Insurers State Farm and Allstate are not seeking new home insurance business along wide stretches of the US east coast amid fears of bigger hurricanes, which some scientists have attributed to climate change.
USCAP also groups the non-governmental Environmental Defense group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the World Resources Institute.
Bush Resists Growing Pressure To Curb Global Warming
White House spokesman Tony Snow earlier this week said Bush's position on greenhouse gases remained unchanged, no matter what was reported by Britain's The Observer weekly.
The publication quoted an unnamed top official with Prime Minister Tony Blair's administration saying that Bush was preparing to announce a major climate policy change in his State of the Union address on January 23. "It's not accurate," Snow said at one of his daily press briefings.
"If you are talking about enforceable carbon caps, in terms of industry-wide and nation-wide, we knocked that down. That's not something we're talking about," he stressed.
"Look, we'll have a State of the Union address in a week and we'll lay out our policy on global warming," he told reporters referring to the president's annual speech before Congress.
In his 2006 state of the union address, Bush implicitly acknowledged the United States' contribution to global warming: "we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil," he said.
The United States imports 65 percent of the crude oil it burns in its cars, planes, power plants and sundry devices and spews forth one quarter of all greenhouse gases in the world considered a major component of global warming.
But Bush has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol that entered into force in February 2005 with the purpose of limiting global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), deeming it too costly for the US economy and of no practical use since major polluting developing nations such as China and India are not bound by it.
Instead, Bush insists on a voluntary approach to cutting greenhouse gases and has sponsored initiatives encouraging the development of alternative fuels such as ethanol.
The opposition Democratic party, boasting its new majority in the Senate and House of Representatives, has already presented four major bills to curb CO2 emissions and US dependency on foreign oil since Congress convened early January. And there is a promise of more to come.
Some of the measures have bipartisan support from Democrats and Republicans, making it quite likely they will clear both houses of Congress, but not the hurdle of a presidential veto, which can only be overridden by a very unlikely two-third majority vote in both houses.
Many lawmakers of both parties represent US states with heavy automotive and oil industry lobbies dead set, like Bush, against imposing Kyoto-style, enforceable CO2 limits defended by Europe and adopted by several US states, including the one with the biggest population and economy, California.
California movie star-turned-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger earlier this month announced his decision to cut his state's coal- and oil-produced CO2 emissions by 10 percent by 2020.
Neither Democrats or Republicans are in total agreement on any of the CO2 bills up for debate.
"There are a number of pathways for getting to a shared goal, and we should explore all of them," James Connaughton, chairman of the president's Council on Environmental Quality, said in an interview published Thursday in The New York Times.
He didn't rule out a compromise focusing on the cap-and-trade system -- by which industries trade CO2 permits on the marketplace -- provided in the Kyoto agreement, saying that "if corrected, might make (the protocol) a workable tool."
earlier related report
"The science of global warming and its impact is overwhelming and unequivocal. We already have many of the technology and techniques that we need to reduce global warming pollution, and American ingenuity will supply the rest," Pelosi said.
Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, said the creation of the committee is part of a major legislative push on global warming issues, which Pelosi said were given short shrift during the dozen years that Republicans -- the party deemed friendlier to business and industry -- controled Congress.
She said the committee aims to produce major legislation on global warming and US energy independence by early July. "With this new Select Committee, we demonstrate the priority we are giving to confront this most serious challenge."
"Now is time to act. The future of our country, indeed our entire planet, is at stake," Pelosi said.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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