Must Business Lead on Climate Change?

A London summit calls for companies to spearhead environmental efforts because reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions can save them money

The need for immediate action on climate change has been stressed by some of the world's leading experts at a London summit today which coincided with the unveiling of a draft climate change bill by the government.

Businesses have been told they must lead the way with the enticing promise that energy savings and reducing carbon emissions can be economically as well as environmentally beneficial.

Addressing the urgent need for change, Dr Jim Hansen, professor of earth and environmental sciences at Nasa, told attendees at the 'Date with the Planet' event in London: "There is reason to be concerned. There is an urgency to this problem. We are very close to passing some tipping points where there will be changes beyond our control with disastrous consequences.

"But on the other hand there are solutions. We need to get on a different energy path within a decade to avoid some of those tipping points."

More than half of the world's carbon emissions are generated in Europe (31 per cent) and the US (21 per cent), according to Dr Steve Howard, CEO of lobbying organisation the Climate Group.

And the need for big business in the West to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint is critical, the experts urged. Howard praised businesses such as Barclays and Sky who have made a commitment to running 'carbon neutral' businesses. He urged others to follow their lead ahead of government proposals announced today which could see tougher legislation brought in to make carbon emissions targets legally binding.

Many businesses in the IT industry, where energy consumption and the replacement cycles of hardware are key issues, are already embracing more environmentally friendly ways of working.

Likewise many users of IT equipment are making operational changes to reduce the negative impact their businesses are having on the environment, such as turning off PCs and peripherals overnight.

Smarter use of certain technologies can also make a difference. Brett Caine, president of Citrix Online, told many customers looking to use remote access technologies and remote webinar and conference facilities are doing so to reduce the amount of travel their employees need to undertake.

And making a business more environmentally friendly need not be a costly process.

Lord Adair Turner, former director general of the CBI, now a lecturer at the LSE, said the simple economics of using less power and other cost-savings - such as better building techniques which limit heating and air conditioning inefficiencies - mean companies will offset some of the outlay required in other areas.

Turner said 10 per cent of measures that could limit carbon emissions would actually make money for businesses.

He said: "We can cut emissions significantly at nil or minimal cost."

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