October 1, 2007

CEOs call for climate action

OTTAWA–Canada's top business leaders have endorsed a plan to combat global climate change that calls for government intervention and says businesses, as well as the public, will have to pay a stiff price.

In a report released today, a task force of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, which represents a wide cross-section of business interests, including oil producers, called for a national strategy that produces real reductions in greenhouse gases.

The document will likely face criticism from environmentalists for not going far enough because it does not embrace a carbon tax – although it does not reject one – and calls for intensity-based targets rather than absolute reductions.

The proposals most resemble the Conservative government's green plan, which was roundly criticized by opposition parties and environmental groups.

Council president Tom d'Aquino, a task force co-chair, said such criticism would miss the point that business leaders from every sector of the economy have accepted the responsibility of making greenhouse-gas reductions.

And he noted that while the report calls for the controversial intensity targets – which would allow industries to increase emissions if they produce more products – the chief executives also say that the intensity targets must result in absolute, economy-wide reductions.

"There isn't another country in the world that has brought together such a coalition of CEOs and business interests to pursue an environmental agenda," d'Aquino said.

"What we're saying is, if we harness the opportunities that the climate change offers us, ultimately Canada will emerge not only an energy superpower but also an environmental superpower."

The task force, formed in March, includes CEOs from Alcan, Suncor, Imperial Oil, Royal Bank, Manulife Financial and Power Corp.

The most encompassing recommendation is that the federal government, provinces, industry and consumer groups join forces on an agreed-upon national action plan on climate change.

The report is most critical about the failure of provinces and Ottawa to agree on a common strategy.

It also calls on governments to establish "price signals" – which could include a carbon tax – but leans more to an emissions trading system to influence behaviour. It urges governments to establish long-term technology funds to drive innovation.

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