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Business Leaders Call For Action On Climate Change

Business leaders from 150 companies from around the world are calling for action on climate change. The leaders signed a declaration at a United Nations meeting, in which they committed themselves to reducing the damage caused by carbon dioxide emissions from products and services. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

Thirty of the 150 companies pledging to do something about climate change are from the Fortune Global 500. Environmental activists say the possibility of coming to grips with this problem looks better since these companies have come aboard.

The executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, Achim Steiner, says the issue of climate change is no longer just viewed as a threat to economic development.

He says bringing down the levels of carbon dioxide emissions, which lead to global warming, is increasingly seen as an opportunity for businesses and for bettering economies.

"In terms of global warming and climate change, the key to rapid progress is in part premised upon getting markets and, by implication, businesses to become not skeptics and doubters and therefore brakes on progress, but rather catalysts, innovators and multipliers for a transition to a more energy efficient economy," said Steiner.

The chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, says climate change will have a very bad impact on poor people. It also will lead to a decline in agricultural productivity.

Unless business is deeply involved in finding solutions, he says the world will not be able to tackle the problem of climate change.

"There are opportunities that would open up," said Pachauri. "Ten years from now, the world would have a low carbon future, one would hope. And, therefore, those who are off the block the earliest, would be the ones that would turn out to be winners."

Pachauri says it is imperative for businesses and industries to start looking at this low carbon future and to start making the investments that would be in their commercial interests.

This message is not lost on the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. The president of this coalition of 200 of the world's leading corporations, Bjorn Stigson says business is acting on this challenge.

"We are acting on it because there is a business case for this," said Stigson. "If you reduce energy use, you become more efficient, you will improve your bottom line, your profit. It is also a strategic issue. You have to look at what this means for your long-term business strategy today."

Chief Procurement Officer of Royal Philips Electronics, Barbara Kux, knows first-hand the difference technology can make. She says 90 percent of the world electricity today is consumed by lighting.

"By switching to more modern and energy efficient lighting, over 500 million tons of CO2 emissions could be reduced," said Kux. "This is the equivalent of 530 medium sized power plants."

Kux cites a recent study that shows replacing existing lighting technology would save 100 billion euro. She says public awareness about the climate has changed and consumers want to buy more environmentally-friendly products. She says smart businesses will give consumers what they want.