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EU businesses should not bear ‘extra’ climate change costs

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Business groups attending the United Nations Climate Change conference in Copenhagen have warned that European firms should not be burdened with additional cuts in carbon emissions.

Pressure has been applied by developing nations for European business to accept reductions in CO2 emissions that extend beyond those agreed under the Kyoto protocol.

However, business groups at the conference argued that such a move would leave them at an increasing competitive disadvantage, particularly if China and India are allowed less severe targets.

Business Europe, a lobby organisation, insisted that the EU should resist arguments to cut greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 10 per cent (up from 20 per cent) unless other economic areas also pledge to similar increases in reductions.

The group said: “In the absence of a global agreement, the EU must not increase in any way its current carbon-reduction requirement.”

The CBI agreed. Its environment spokesman, Neil Bentley added: “It may be right to move to a 30 per cent emissions cut, but the challenge is bringing other countries to match that level of ambition.”

Despite the slow nature of the discussions in the first week of the conference, a draft agreement that set out a 50 per cent reduction in global emissions by 2050 was put together last Friday.

The sticking point, however, is money, specifically the sums that the developed economies should commit to poorer nations in order to help them adapt to climate change.

Money is, indeed, likely to be one of the main stumbling blocks at Copenhagen. Developing nation lobby groups want the main industrialised economies to fund the low-carbon technologies that would help other parts of the world to grow in an environmentally sustainable way.

The International Energy Agency has predicted that some £8-10 trillion will need to be found by 2030 to finance the shift to a low-carbon global energy structure.

If Kyoto targets, along with any additional reductions agreed at Copenhagen, are to be met, it is estimated that the business community will be responsible for over three-quarters of the cuts in carbon emissions.

Steve Sawyer of the World Bank’s clean technology fund committee said that so far $5 billion had been raised, the aim being to secure a total fund worth $100 billion over the next ten years.

But he added that businesses need incentives to continue investing in the low-carbon future.

Mr Sawyer commented: “Whatever comes out of Copenhagen, ultimately it is business that will pay most of the costs, but if governments are going to get business to invest then they should be testing these new low-carbon technologies in the markets where they have the most commercial opportunities.

“We should be investing in projects where it makes economic sense to get these technologies to scale.”