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'Kyoto' era begins

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While the US government declines to join the international Kyoto effort, businesses around the country already are moving in that direction.

A group of major companies (including DuPont, International Paper, and IBM), have formed the Chicago Climate Exchange to trade carbon dioxide emission reductions on a spot market basis. Member companies have agreed to reduce their greenhouse emissions by 4 percent by 2006.

Another group of major corporations has joined the Pew Center on Global Climate Change's Business Environmental Leadership Council. They agree that "enough is known about the science and environmental impacts of climate change for us to take actions to address its consequences." Businesses, they say, "can and should take concrete steps now in the US and abroad to assess opportunities for emission reductions; establish and meet emission reduction objectives; and invest in new, more efficient products, practices and technologies."

Members of this high-powered group include Boeing, CH2M Hill, United Technologies, and Hewlett-Packard. Some CEOs believe strongly that global warming is a threat that must be addressed; others - especially those with overseas operations - accept the inevitability of international controls on carbon emissions, and they don't want to be caught behind the competition.

"Whether you still believe that Kyoto is based on fuzzy science or is a stealth campaign by other countries to damage US companies, it's time to face reality," Industry Week editor in chief Patricia Panchak wrote recently. "Kyoto likely will affect how you do business no matter where your company is."

Meanwhile, nine eastern states (the six New England states plus Delaware, New Jersey, and New York) have formed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative requiring large power plants to reduce carbon emissions through a cap-and-trade system. Auto-clogged California is even trying to force automakers to limit emissions.

The Bush administration refused, along with 95 US senators, to sign on to Kyoto for two principal reasons: That it would harm the US economy by requiring very costly changes to manufacturing, transportation, and other aspects of business; and because the agreement did not initially cover the most rapidly developing countries - India and China - where economic advancement is valued over smokestack issues.

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