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US Businesses, Environmental Groups Join Forces to Push for Action on Global Warming

A diverse group of US-based businesses and environmental organizations is calling on the federal government to act quickly to enact new laws to significantly reduce greenhouse gases. The coalition says any delay in reducing the emissions that promote global warming will only necessitate steeper reductions in the future.

It is an unusual partnership: Chief executives from some of the biggest American corporations - working with the leaders of prominent environmental groups. Jonathan Lash, the president of World Resources Institute says there has already been enough talk about global warming.

"The question is no longer whether to take action, but what kind of action to take. That's what brought this group together."

The U.S. Climate Action Partnership, or USCAP, is proposing a mandatory, nation-wide cap on emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. Its aim is to reduce current levels by 30 percent in the next 15 years. Jim Rogers is chairman and CEO of Duke Energy Corporation. "We need a program flexible enough to cope with the economic and technical challenges ahead but it must be mandatory so there is no doubt about our commitment to concrete action," he told the group.

USCAP wants a market driven approach that places specific limits on carbon emissions and gives economic incentives to reach that cap.

The call comes amid similar proposals in Europe. The European Commission hopes to reduce greenhouse emissions to pre-industrial levels by the year 2020. But Commision president Jose Manuel Barroso says European countries cannot do it alone. "We need the United States with us. They are, after all, the biggest polluter in the world."

The U.S., which did not sign the Kyoto Protocol agreement requiring industrial nations to reduce carbon emissions, produces one-fourth of the world's greenhouse gases. The Bush administration contends the accord would have weakened the US economy. But Fred Krupp, the president of the non-profit group Environmental Defense, says it is time the nation's lawmakers set politics aside to take the lead on a global problem.

"We are asking Congress to act this year, not to wait for a new administration, not to wait for presidential debates,” said Krupp. “We are hoping that just as we have come together, it is time for both parties to come together and move forward and pass legislation now."

Some see USCAP's recommendations as a smart political move -- considering the number of environmental bills being proposed by a Democratic Party-controlled Congress. But General Electric Chairman Jeff Immelt says protecting the future makes better business sense.

"We think that this kind of action unleashes the entrepreneurial spirit and venture spirit in this country and that people will innovate and lead with technology when they know what the market standards would be in the future," said Immelt.