Compiled from McClatchy Newspapers, The Associated Press, The Washington Post and Newsday
RALEIGH, N.C. — Leaders of 10 major corporations called on Congress and the Bush administration on Monday to tackle global warming by setting mandatory caps on the emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
The executives urged prompt federal approval of mandatory caps to slow, stop and reverse the buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the shortest time possible.
“The science of climate warming is clear,” said Jim Rogers, chairman and chief executive officer of Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy, one of the companies. “We know enough to act now. We must act now. … It must be mandatory so there is no doubt about our commitment to concrete action.”
Major corporate leaders have been changing their position on climate change for the past year or two, and many of them are convinced that some form of regulation of or tax on carbon emissions is inevitable. With many states talking about coming up with their own laws, corporate leaders have started to urge the federal government to establish a nationwide standard.
Members of the group include chief executives of Alcoa, BP America, DuPont, Caterpillar, General Electric and Pacific Gas & Electric.
Jeffry Sterba, chairman of PNM Resources, a New Mexico utility that is also part of the group, said it’s better to act now on a “coordinated, economywide, market-driven approach” than to be forced to act in a “precipitous way” later.
At a news conference, the executives said mandatory reductions could be imposed without economic harm and would lead to economic opportunities if implemented across the entire economy — from power plants to the transportation industry — and with provisions to mitigate costs.
Alcoa, BP America, DuPont, Caterpillar, General Electric, Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light, PNM Resources, Pacific Gas & Electric, Lehman Brothers.
Not part of proposal
The announcement came on the eve of the State of the Union address by President Bush, who has said voluntary efforts are the best approach to reducing greenhouse gases.
At his daily briefing, White House press secretary Tony Snow dismissed any call for mandatory, economywide carbon dioxide caps to address climate change. He acknowledged there has been some talk about such caps, “but they are not part of the president’s proposal.”
Many of the companies already have voluntarily moved to curb greenhouse emissions, they said. But the executives also said they do not believe voluntary efforts will be enough to stop global warming.
The group, called the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, supports a nationwide cap that would reduce the amount of carbon dioxide by up to 10 percent within 10 years and by as much as 30 percent in 15 years. By 2050, the levels of carbon dioxide would be cut by 60 to 80 percent from current levels.
“It’s our hope that by joining together, our diverse group sends a clear signal that it’s time for the nation’s political leaders to come together and act,” Rogers said.
Other members of the coalition include energy company Florida Power & Light; investment-banking firm Lehman Brothers; and advocacy groups Environmental Defense, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pew Center on Global Climate Change and World Resources Institute.
In the past 200 years, the burning of fuels such as coal and oil has caused a spike in the amount of heat-trapping gases, primarily carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. Scientists generally agree that the increasing amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is causing global temperatures to rise. There is still debate about how quickly temperatures will increase and how high they will go.
The executives advocate a federal “cap-and-trade” program for carbon emissions, which would work much like the carrot-and-stick approach that has cut national emissions of sulfur dioxide — the major source of acid rain — by half since 1990.
Under such a system, companies are given caps on the amount of pollution that can be emitted. Those able to beat the limits are permitted to sell “allowances” on the open market to other companies not yet in compliance. In effect, the offenders are paying other companies to cut their pollution more than required.
“This is a centrist approach,” said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense. “Government leads by setting a goal, by giving the private sector flexibility to do this in the most efficient and profitable way possible.”
Krupp called the executives’ support “a game changer” in the debate over climate change. “We are asking Congress to not wait for a new administration and not wait for the presidential debates.”
Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, said the group intends to push the issue in Congress, urging lawmakers to address climate change as soon as possible. She said she expects other major corporations to join in the call.
About half the manmade greenhouse gases in the United States come from power plants, and about one-third comes from cars and trucks. The group said new coal-burning power plants should be designed to capture carbon dioxide.