Climate Talks Are Like Stalled Doha Trade Round, Chamber Says

Global climate talks are heading toward stalemate, preventing businesses from spending the billions of dollars needed to transform economies and cut emissions, said the International Chamber of Commerce.

Seventeen years of negotiations are heading the way of stalled Doha trade talks, said Jean-Guy Carrier, secretary general of the Paris-based chamber, whose members represent millions of businesses from Qatar to the U.S.

About 200 nations are meeting at the Doha climate talks to set rules governing greenhouse gases after targets in the Kyoto Protocol expire this year. Unlike in the European Union, there are no rules capping output of emissions in nations including the U.S., China and India. Companies are struggling to deal with the uncertainty of potential climate rules, as they are grappling with 3,000 bilateral trade agreements, Carrier said.

“Tell us what the rules are going to be so we know how to integrate them into our business,” Carrier said yesterday at the United Nations-sponsored talks in Doha. He said he was frustrated at the slow pace.

“It’s fine to send more and bigger delegations to these talks. But we all know the political forces, the ones who make the ultimate decisions on these things, don’t show any signs of being willing to engage,” he said.

Companies are hoarding cash rather than spending it because there is too much risk due to the lack of rules, Carrier said. BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP) is limiting expenditures on growing its thermal coal assets as the world’s biggest mining company grapples with the environmental impact of burning the fuel. BHP earned 8.4 percent of its revenue from thermal coal in the year ended June 30, 2012.

Inadequate Progress

“The issue with greenhouse gas has sort of fallen off the agenda as economic conditions have gotten tighter globally,” Marcus Randolph, chief executive officer at the Melbourne-based company’s iron ore and coal unit, said today on a call with reporters. “The amount of progress that the world has shown in the last couple of years in dealing with climate change is, frankly, inadequate.”

President Barack Obama is favoring job creation over protecting the climate, Carrier said.

“One doesn’t exclude the other. Green technology investment in developing countries last year was $100 billion. There’s already a jobs argument built into that. That’s one of the things we think politicians aren’t getting,” he said.

Greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere touched an all-time high in 2011, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Hurricane Sandy caused at least $25 billion of damage when it struck New Jersey and New York in October.

Economic turmoil in Europe is restricting global efforts to cut fossil-fuel emissions and curb pollution as climate change policy is “sliding off the agenda,” International Energy Agency Chief Economist Fatih Birol said in an interview before the UN’s annual meeting on the subject.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mathew Carr in London at m.carr@bloomberg.net; Elisabeth Behrmann in Sydney at ebehrmann1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lars Paulsson at lpaulsson@bloomberg.net

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