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Wednesday 5 October 2005

Climate Change and Business

A new survey suggests small and medium-sized firms are excited, confused and nervous about the possibilites and challenges in an economy increasingly concerned about climate change.

The research - a telephone survey of 200 employers - by Mori was sponsored by Shell Springboard, a new organisation which channels grants of up to £40,000 from the oil giant to small firms with good ideas for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The results show the vast majority of SME bosses are concerned about climate change. As many as 92% think we should limit fossil fuel emissions rather than simply accepting climate change. Most (82%) of the bosses say they are prepared to limit their personal CO2 emissions from, for instance, cars.

The great majority (87%) think climate change offers considerable opportunities to business and 95% expect the need for "climate-friendly" products and services to increase.

But only 19% see climate change as a significant opportunity for their own business.

The worst news for a government wishing to provoke universal CO2 emission cuts is that 61% of the bosses thought their firm was too small to have any impact on climate change, and 41% went so far as to say that climate change was nothing to do with them or their firm.

The former Shell Transport chairman Lord Oxburgh, who is leading Shell Springboard, said it showed that government needed to take a firm lead setting strict targets and timetables for CO2 cuts - and business would respond. He said at the moment the government had good intentions on climate change but was failing to bring forward policies because the politics were difficult.
As a geologist, he expressed concern whether governments would manage to avoid catastrophic climate change.

The CBI's Director General Sir Digby Jones said the UK government must not take a strong lead on climate if it left British firms facing mandatory emissions cuts when firms in the USA, China and India were exempted. His comments were echoed by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Alan Johnson.

Climate change experts point out that many American firms, states and city governments are much more concerned about climate change than President Bush and have already committed to making substantial CO2 cuts.

The Chinese government says it is extremely worried about the impact of melting glaciers and rising sea levels - and has made energy efficiency the main plank of its energy policy for several years. The International Energy Agency confirm that coming from a low base, China has one of the fastest-improving rates of energy efficiency in the world. IEA sources say the Chinese are buying state-of-the-art power stations that are much more efficient (and expensive) than other developing nations.

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