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US Industry Warming To Climate Change Fight

Who said money doesn't grow on trees.
by Jitendra Joshi
Washington (AFP) Feb 14, 2007
Saving the planet is a worthy goal, but corporate America also sees money to be made in the fight against global warming. First, however, the US business world needs its skeptical government to pave the legal and regulatory path to climate riches. Former Federal Reserve vice chairman Roger Ferguson, now a top executive at insurance giant Swiss Re, spelt out the case for government action at a climate change conference of global legislators held at the US Senate Tuesday.

"Only a long-term policy framework provides the incentives to the business community that we are eager and willing (to pursue)," he said.

As Ferguson noted, the insurance industry is as vulnerable as any sector to the intensifying storms that scientists say are a devastating offshoot of climate change.

In 2005, insurers paid out a record-breaking 78 billion dollars to victims of natural disasters worldwide, including 45 billion for Hurricane Katrina alone.

Corporate bosses noted the European Union's pioneering experience in setting up a market to "cap and trade" emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Under this system, which has had a volatile two years in existence, EU companies trade excess emissions of greenhouse gases among themselves with the aim of slashing overall levels.

Such schemes are already being used experimentally by California and northeast US states, while the United States leads the world in research into renewable energy sources.

"We believe that the time has come for America to adopt a market-based approach. We believe that cap and trade is just that," said Rick Lazio, a former congressman who is now a senior vice president at JPMorgan Chase.

According to the World Bank, the world carbon market is estimated to have been worth 25-30 billion dollars in 2006, rising to 40 billion a year by 2010.

But for the emissions scheme to go truly global, the Republican administration of US President George W. Bush would have to shed its opposition to binding greenhouse limits on industry.

The Washington forum was an informal attempt by legislators from rich nations, and major developing nations like China and India, to craft the outlines of a global-warming pact to succeed the Kyoto treaty after 2012.

Bush has refused to adopt Kyoto, arguing the economic costs would be crippling and that the science behind global warming remained unclear.

But speaker after speaker at the forum, including Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, lined up to argue that climate change is real and risks becoming an irreversible disaster without action now.

"The business community really wants to be at the table, with the right options," said Steve Howard, chief executive of the Climate Group, a non-profit outfit promoting corporate and government cooperation on the issue.

But he stressed that businesses need a long-term policy framework, covering the next four to five decades, to justify the vast investments needed now in clean technologies.

Virgin Group tycoon Sir Richard Branson was also at the forum, after last week launching a 25-million-dollar prize to inspire innovators to develop a way to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

He noted that Virgin Atlantic wants an industry pact to tow planes to and from runways, so they can cut the time their engines are running and limit jet-fuel emissions.

Planes could carry six tonnes less of fuel on each journey and 80 percent of local airport pollution would be eliminated, the British entrepreneur said.

But Virgin is "having hell" to persuade other airlines of the scheme's merit, he told the forum.

"It does seem it needs government sticks, as well as just leaving it up to companies to do it themselves."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Brazil Sees Ethanol Output Replacing 10 Pecent World Gasoline Demand
Sao Paulo (AFP) Feb 14, 2007
Brazil, South America's economic heavyweight, could produce enough ethanol to replace 10 percent of world gasoline demand in the next 20 years, according to a recently unveiled project. News of the renewable energy project comes amid growing concern about greenhouse gases caused by burning fossil fuels that are blamed for global warming.

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