OTTAWA Canada's top chief executive officers have reached an “unprecedented consensus” on the need to combat global warming and their obligation to do more to help.
Monday morning, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives is releasing a declaration calling climate change “the most pressing and daunting issue” today, and acknowledging the need for “aggressive” action including “absolute” emission cuts. It's the clearest signal ever sent by a broad coalition of Canadian businesses that they embrace the fight against climate change and accept the need for emission cut targets.
Even more significant: the CEOs acknowledge a necessary part of the battle will be government intervention to raise energy prices as a means of influencing consumption. “We share the goal of slowing, stopping and reversing the growth of global greenhouse gas emissions over the shortest period of time that is reasonably achievable,” the 150 CEOs announce in a declaration obtained by The Globe and Mail.
They say they're confident that technology investment – spurred by incentives – could help Canada become a leader in trimming emissions output. But the CEOs acknowledge that governments must step in with an emissions trading market or even something most of them don't welcome: environment taxes.
They say even without government intervention in markets, consumer preferences are shifting toward more environmentally friendly alternatives, but market forces alone are unlikely enough to meet the challenge of climate change.”
The declaration is an attempt by the CEO group, whose companies generate more than $800-billion in revenue a year, to secure a greater role in the national debate on tackling climate change.
“It's meant to go on the offensive in a positive way as opposed to being in a defensive position where I think the industry has been for the past [few] years,” said Thomas d'Aquino, Council of Chief Executives president.
A key goal in this public embrace of the battle against global warming is to forestall measures from current or future governments that would unduly penalize the Canadian economy.
Both Ottawa's minority Parliament and provinces are divided over what sort of policies are best to reduce greenhouse gas output.
“Unless we pull together and get a degree of consensus in the country … Canada will continue to be mired in this highly destructive, non-productive debate that eventually will lead to – I don't know – maybe Draconian regulations that make no sense whatsoever,” Mr. d'Aquino said.
However, there is still plenty of time to influence the direction of Canada's climate-change abatement strategy because the Harper government is still in the process of assembling it.
After announcing that Canada could not meet the heavy emissions reduction obligations under the 1997 Kyoto treaty, the minority Harper government is trying to chart a new course to reduce greenhouse gas output over a longer period.
Once considered a global-warming skeptic, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appears more resolved to act now.
He told global leaders earlier this month that the “growing menace of climate change is one of the most important public policy challenges of our time.”
The CEO task force that drew up the declaration, co-chaired by Alcan Inc.'s Richard Evans and Suncor Energy Inc.'s Rick George, also sounds the alarm about the lack of a coherent national strategy to combat climate change, saying it's undermined by conflict between the provinces and Ottawa.
Finally, the CEO group cautions, if real gains are to be achieved on climate change, any long-term plan must include all countries that are major emitters.