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Financial Times: Business leaders lobby Blair to set tougher targets on greenhouse gases

By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
Published: June 7 2006 03:00 | Last updated: June 7 2006 03:00

A group of businesses including an oil company and manufacturers lobbied the prime minister yesterday to set tougher targets for greenhouse gases under the European Union emissions trading scheme in order to tackle climate change.
 
The 14 business chiefs, known as the Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change, presented Tony Blair with a list of seven proposals ranging from extending the EU’s emissions trading scheme to strengthening building regulations. They also mooted road pricing, congestion charging and reduced business rates for energy efficient buildings.

The group was brought together by the Prince of Wales. He said: “This proves that many of the most distinguished business leaders in the UK believe that taking serious action to tackle climate change makes long-term business sense.”

Top of the agenda was a plan to extend the EU’s emissions trading scheme to 2025, laying out long-term clear emissions reduction targets for companies in the process. James Smith, chairman of Shell UK, said: “We need EU governments to set clear targets to 2025 so that our businesses can have the confidence to make long-term investments in reducing emissions.”

They supported a cut in emissions for the second phase of the scheme, from 2008 to 2012, at “the higher end” of the range of from 3m to 8m tonnes proposed in the government’s climate change programme review.

This view contrasts with that of other organisations, such as the CBI employers’ body and the EEF manufacturing group, which complained businesses were unfairly burdened with emissions cuts in phase 1 that were not mirrored elsewhere in Europe and that consumers should bear the brunt of future cuts, not businesses.

The leaders asked the government to make its procurement practices greener and to help rapidly industrialising nations such as India and China gain access to low-carbon forms of energy.

They also called on the government to explore ways in which the UK’s infrastructure could be adapted to cut emissions from transport, including variable road pricing and congestion charging.

Mr Blair’s political opponents joined the call for climate change action. Peter Ainsworth, shadow secretary of state for the environment, said: “We cannot hope to tac-kle climate change by tinkering at the edges of existing environmental policy.”

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?”

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