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Obama's Climate Push Plays Catch-up With Corporate Lobbyists

Some of the world's top executives have backed the White House goals and are expected to help press for a meaningful outcome in Copenhagen

By Kim Chipman and Todd White

(Bloomberg)—Now that U.S. President Barack Obama has given fresh impetus to climate-change negotiations in Copenhagen, corporate leaders supporting an agreement to control greenhouse-gas emissions are pressing anew for action.

Two weeks of talks among 192 nations open today in the Danish capital, and Obama's decision to show up on the final day helps ensure "an ambitious outcome," United Nations climate chief Yvo de Boer told reporters in Copenhagen yesterday.

The International Energy Agency, a trade group for the U.S. and 27 more oil-consuming nations, and companies from Allianz SE to Coca-Cola Co. (KO) say envoys can agree to halt the growth of emissions within 10 years and keep global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

"We need a signal at Copenhagen to cap emissions by 2020 and a 2-degree scenario," Fatih Birol, chief economist for the agency, said in a phone interview. "All the measures we suggest will bring energy security, because we'll use less oil" and more clean energy, said Birol, who plans to visit Copenhagen for the second of the two weeks of talks.

World leaders already have said the talks will fail to reach the original goal of completing a treaty, a deadline moved to next year. While Obama and de Boer didn't specify how much can be achieved in Copenhagen, company executives and lobbyists say they want quantifiable goals that have been sought for years by environmentalists and scientific groups.

GE, HSBC, Nike

Supporters of the temperature and 2020 targets include 850 business leaders who signed this year what's called the Copenhagen communiqué, a project by the University of Cambridge in the U.K. Signatories include General Electric (GE) Co. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent, BP (BP) Plc CEO Tony Hayward, HSBC (HBC) Holdings Plc Chairman Stephen Green, Nestle SA CEO Paul Bulcke and Nike Inc. (NKE) CEO Mark Parker.

Executives from many of these companies are joining the 15,000 delegates who will come to the city's Bella convention center today for talks through Dec. 18.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs announced on Dec. 4 that Obama will show up for the conclusion of the talks, when most of the 100 or so heads of government will arrive and help guide final decisions. Earlier Obama had planned to stop by on Dec. 9. "There is progress toward a meaningful Copenhagen accord," Gibbs said.

Obama found after speaking with UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other leaders that there's an "emerging consensus" to provide $10 billion a year by 2012 to help poor countries deal with global warming.

'Fair Share'

"The United States will pay its fair share of that amount and other countries will make substantial commitments as well," Gibbs said in the statement. The administration also believes longer-term financing should be considered in Denmark, he said.

Negotiators in the Danish capital must provide companies with the certainty they need to make annual investments that may rise to trillions of dollars, said John Hawksworth, chief of macroeconomics at PricewaterhouseCoopers in London. Businesses need to know the scale of planned carbon cuts in order to gauge how expensive tradable carbon allowances will become, he said.

"The fundamental thing is to come up with a deal on the intermediate targets for 2020," Hawksworth said in a telephone interview. "Once you've got the price on carbon, that sends the signal that businesses need in order to make the long-term investments in low carbon technologies and processes."

Allianz, Europe's largest insurer, supports the 2-degree limit as well as financing for developing countries to adapt to climate change, said Nick Tewes, a spokesman. By limiting the risks associated with climate change, the insurer will also minimize its potential claims, he said.

U.S. Chamber's Opposition

Those on the other side of the issue also will be in Copenhagen, including representatives of the Washington-based U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest U.S. business-lobbying organization. The group has questioned mandatory emissions cuts as part of an international accord and is calling for an emphasis on clean-energy technology.

The Chamber is fighting against U.S. legislation, which passed the House and is stalled in the Senate, to require a cut in greenhouse-gas pollution. It would cap emissions and set up a market to trade pollution allowances.

The Paris-based IEA estimates that efforts to keep warming to less than 2 degrees since industrialization will add $10.5 trillion to the investment needed by 2030 to upgrade power stations, pipelines and refineries. The IEA also backs keeping the concentration of heat-trapping carbon dioxide to 450 parts per million, compared with about 385 now.

Greenpeace, Corporate Link

Amsterdam-based Greenpeace has called for an increase of no more than 2 degrees for at least seven years, said Kaisa Kosonen, a climate adviser for the environmental group. Greenpeace calls for global emissions to peak by 2015, five years earlier than the corporations.

Enel SpA, Italy's largest utility, wants competitors around the world to accept CO2 regulations similar to those the Rome- based company already faces in the European Union.

"In order to get these targets, for 2 degrees of 450 parts per million, and emissions cuts, you need private investors like us," said Simone Mori, head of regulation and environment at Enel, who may travel to Copenhagen.

The two-degree target has been a goal for the 27-nation European Union since 1996. In July, major greenhouse-gas polluters including the U.S., China, India and Japan signed up to the target, which has also been discussed in the UN negotiations as a possible long-term "shared vision."

The move marked the first time developing nations had set such a target to fight climate change.

Opponent Inhofe

The talk of momentum doesn't sway one of the U.S. Congress's biggest climate-change skeptics, Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who also will come to Copenhagen. He says the meeting is doomed, even with Obama's entourage attending on the last day.

"No amount of lofty rhetoric or promises of future commitments can save it," Inhofe said in a statement. That's in part because legislation pending in the Senate to cap emissions "is dying on the vine."

To contact the reporters on this story: Kim Chipman in Copenhagen at; Alex Morales Alex Morales in London at

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