In a speech to the Berlin Parliament, BP's chief executive John Browne accepted that governments may decide on short term targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Kyoto in December. He observed that "there may be a target - for an overall reduction in emissions by 2005 or 2010 - but that will just be the beginning of the next process - the development of the means to achieve that target".
While the statement is far from a clear endorsement of any such target, it was welcomed yesterday by environmentalists as striking a different tone to that of oil firms in the USA in particular. The Global Climate Coalition, a US industry lobby from which BP withdrew last year, has recently stepped up a campaign to prevent the US government from agreeing to short-term emission reduction targets.
In Europe too, industry groups have opposed targets before 2010 - a message delivered to governments in March by BP's own Klaus Kohlhase on behalf of the European employers union, Unice (ENDS Daily 5 March).
Greenpeace International said last night that Mr Browne's speech "reveals that at least one major oil company is not opposing legally binding action on greenhouse gas emissions" and is "advocating a reduction of overall greenhouse gas emissions".
Greenpeace also welcomed Mr Browne's prediction that by 2050 half of the world's energy needs could be supplied by solar power, although the group felt this to be underestimating the true potential. BP committed to increase its investment in solar power earlier this year (ENDS Daily 21 May). Greenpeace welcomed this move but pointed out that the company's investment in solar power remained minuscule compared to that in fossil fuel.
Yesterday, BP published a set of climate change principles underlining its view that industry has a responsibility to take constructive, precautionary action on climate change. The principles stipulate the need for clear targets for emission reductions but scope for flexibility in achieving them.
Mr Browne revealed that from next year the company will monitor and report CO2 emissions from its operations. It also intends to develop "firm realistic targets" to reduce emissions over the next two years. The targets and results are to be independently verified and published.
BP also plans to set up an internal emissions trading system initially involving ten "key operations" but with the hope of expanding this to the entire company. The system, which is being developed together with US environmental group Environmental Defense Fund, aims to achieve BP's targets at the lowest practical cost.
British Petroleum, tel: +44 171 496 4000.
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