WASHINGTON — Major corporations and environmental groups on Friday announced what they called an "unprecedented alliance" to push for quicker action against global warming — urging lawmakers to pass mandatory curbs on carbon emissions, in contrast to President Bush's voluntary approach.
In a statement, the 10 U.S.-based companies and four environmental groups called for mandatory reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, including those from power plants, transportation and buildings.
Called the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, the group includes aluminum giant Alcoa, BP America, Caterpillar, DuPont, General Electric, Lehman Brothers and four utilities with a big stake in climate policy: Duke Energy, FPL Group, PG&E and PNM Resources. (MSNBC.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and GE's NBC Universal unit.)
The environmental partners are Environmental Defense, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the World Resources Institute.
The partnership said the cornerstone of its approach to fighting global warming would be "a cap-and-trade program," echoing what Democrats and many environmentalists have proposed: a system that allows companies to buy and sell carbon credits. In such a system, emissions would be capped. Companies that reduce emissions and don't hit their limits could sell what is left over to companies that exceed their limits.
Video: Corporations going green? "There must be a reasoned and serious debate about the solutions," the group stated. "But debate cannot substitute for action. We hope that the consensus we have reached through our unique partnership provides further impetus toward the creation of sensible and effective policies to address global climate change."
Members of the group, which had been in talks over the last year, said company CEOs would offer more details at a National Press Club event on Monday, a day before Bush's State of the Union speech in which the president is expected to address climate change.
Members said they had agreed on a "shared goal of slowing, stopping and reversing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions over the shortest period of time reasonably achievable."
Carbon caps called for
The New York Times reported Friday that the carbon caps called for by the group would aim to reduce emissions by 10 percent to 30 percent over the next 15 years.
In a reference to conventional coal-fired power plants, the group also said it favors "policies to speed the transition to low- and zero-emission stationary sources and strongly discourage further construction of stationary sources that cannot easily capture CO2 emissions."
The coalition’s diversity could send a signal that businesses want to get ahead of the increasing political momentum for federal emissions controls, in part to protect their long-term interests, the Times said.
In his speech next week, Bush is likely to support a massive increase in U.S. ethanol usage and tweak climate change policy, sources familiar with the White House plans said this week.
The White House has confirmed that the speech will outline a policy on global warming, but said Bush has not dropped his opposition to mandatory limits on the heat-trapping greenhouse-gas emissions.
The Kyoto Protocol is the only global pact obliging signatories to cut carbon dioxide emissions, but the United States is not a member, nor are China and India. The protocol expires in 2012.
News of the coalition comes as governments and groups devote more attention to climate change policy.
Democrats in Congress are pushing legislation to curb carbon emissions, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has proposed creating a special committee to deal with the issue .
In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order Thursday to reduce carbon emissions from transportation fuels, a move intended to widen the development and use of alternative vehicle fuels in the nation’s biggest state.
Abroad, the European Union's top diplomat said on Thursday that global warming has moved to the heart of European foreign policy.
And last Monday, a summit of Asian leaders promised to encourage more efficient energy use to help stave off global warming.
An EU-U.S. summit in April is expected to focus on energy security and a Group of Eight summit in early June will highlight energy and climate.
Reuters contributed to this report.