Industry must deliver on green promises: UK's Brown
By Gerard Wynn
LONDON (Reuters) - Industry must follow through on climate change commitments despite a threatened economic slowdown, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and heir to the throne Prince Charles said on Thursday.
Speaking to business leaders in London, Brown said cutting greenhouse gases was compatible with economic growth and urged companies to deliver on green promises.
"I think you understand that, even in these uncertain economic times, your reputation and success depends on the investments you make not just in new products, but in the communities you serve and in the environment that surrounds these communities," he said.
He was speaking on the day Anglo-Dutch oil company Royal Dutch Shell Plc announced it was selling its stake in one of the world's largest planned offshore wind farms, east of London, in a move expected to delay the project.
Brown said clean energy, water and waste industries will be worth as much as the global aerospace industry by 2010 and could employ more than a million Britons within two decades.
Shell's move drew criticism from the government:
"I have to say the news that Shell wishes to sell its stake is very disappointing," said Environment Minister Hilary Benn.
Climate issues commanded headlines in 2007, when the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, a leading climate change campaigner, shared the Nobel Peace Prize.
But attention has switched this year to a financial crisis that has frozen money markets and rattled consumers, pushing the global economy towards a sharp slowdown.
IPCC chief Rajendra Pachauri told the business leaders by videolink that new government policies would punish climate change laggards. "Business and industry have to realize that the world in the future will be a low carbon world," he said.
Shell's advertising focuses on its green energy initiatives despite these being only about 1 percent of its investments. It said it was shifting its wind power focus to the United States where it said government incentives offered competitive returns.
Prince Charles, is president of Business in the Community, which led a May Day event to get up to 10,000 companies to commit to cutting their carbon emissions.
"I beg that you don't let these (economic) circumstances divert you from the challenge of tackling climate change," he said.
Some 830 companies have already signed up to the scheme but many have failed to deliver on commitments made last year to measure their carbon footprint and set emissions-cutting goals.
"There's no doubt some people, businesses talk a better game than they act. That will backfire. Companies which only join initiatives and don't engage put themselves at risk," Stephen Howard, chief executive of Business in the Community, told Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Tom Bergin; Editing by Matthew Jones)