WASHINGTON — Having earlier won the backing of Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, 10 major corporations on Monday spelled out their strategy for combating global warming — urging lawmakers to pass mandatory curbs on carbon emissions, in contrast to President Bush's voluntary approach.
Joined by four environmental groups, the corporations on Monday asked for legislation that would reduce carbon emissions by up to 80 percent by 2050.
The alliance, first announced Friday, proposed gradually moving in that direction, with little change in the first five years, then up to a 10 percent reduction within 10 years, and up to 30 percent within 15 years.
"The short- and mid-term targets selected by Congress should be aimed at making it clear to the millions of actors in our economy and to other nations that we are committed to a pathway that will slow, stop and reverse the growth of U.S. emissions," the partners stated in a report titled "A Call for Action."
“It must be mandatory, so there is no doubt about our actions,” Jim Rogers, chairman of Duke Energy, one of the alliance partners, said at a press conference. “The science of global warming is clear. We know enough to act now. We must act now.”
Fred Krupp, president of Environmenal Defense, another member of the alliance, called the executives’ support “a game changer” in the debate over climate. “We are asking Congress to not wait for a new administration and not wait for the presidential debates.”
Wal-Mart endorsed the alliance shortly after its creation was announced Friday.
"We endorse the group's call for strong national policies and market-based programs for greenhouse gas reductions," Linda Dillman, Wal-Mart's vice president of risk management, benefits and sustainability, said in a statement.
Wal-Mart will work with the group, the White House and lawmakers "to enact meaningful legislation to slow, stop and reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions," she added.
Video: Corporations going green? The group on Friday called its effort an "unprecedented alliance" to push for quicker action against global warming.
The alliance backs 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.
"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 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."
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."
Major industry groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers continue to oppose so-called “cap and trade” proposals to cut climate changing pollution, mainly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels.
In his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, 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.
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.
Still, asked about this issue at his daily news briefing Monday, White House press secretary Tony Snow told reporters that “there’s been some talk about, sort of, binding of economy-wide carbon caps in the speech, but they are not part of the president’s proposal.”
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 .
Among those pushing cap-and-trade climate bills are two leading presidential aspirants, Sens. Barack, D-Ill. and John McCain, R-Ariz.
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 and The Associated Press contributed to this report.