updated 7/18/2007 2:07:21 PM ET 2007-07-18T18:07:21

Chief executives of many of the country's largest corporations joined the growing chorus Tuesday that wants action to reduce the risks of global warming.

The Business Roundtable, which represents 160 chief executives of leading U.S. companies, said "collective actions" should be taken now to begin reducing heat-trapping greenhouse gases that many scientists believe are warming the earth.

"The consequences of global warming for society and ecosystems are potentially serious and far-reaching," the business group said. "Steps to address the risks of such warming are prudent now even while the science continues to evolve."

The group said its members have varying views on how to achieve the emission reductions, and not all the executives support mandatory carbon dioxide limits. But the group said its members agree that reducing the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere should be made a top priority.

The policy statement "marks the first time that a broad cross-section of business leaders from every sector of the U.S. economy have reached consensus on the risks posed by climate change and the need for action," said Business Roundtable President John Castellani.

Chad Holliday, chairman of DuPont and head of the group's environment task force, said business executives' views on climate change are evolving significantly. A growing number now believes cutting greenhouse gases is a major issue for their companies, he said.

The Business Roundtable is an association of CEOs of major corporations and represents a combined work force of more than 10 million employees and $4.5 trillion in annual revenues.

Its members include major energy companies including Exxon Mobil Corp., Peabody Energy Co., the country's largest coal producer, and Southern Co., an electric utility that is among the largest coal users.

Carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas, is produced from burning fossil fuel, especially coal.

A growing number of business leaders have in recent months called for action to combat global warming, many of them supporting legislation that would impose mandatory limits on carbon emissions.

"There is a freight train of momentum of action," David Yarnold, executive vice president of Environmental Defense, said in response to the Business Roundtable announcement.

The executives' climate statement, however, reflected continuing divisions within the business community about what specific actions should be taken as well as concern over the potential economic impact of a policy that would require dramatic shifts in how society uses its energy resources.

"Some companies support mandatory approaches; others do not," said the Roundtable's climate statement.

While the executives agreed that member companies should commit to making emission reductions, they also said "collective actions" are needed globally to deal with climate change. And they urged "a flexible stepwise approach" that provides business "a clear and stable long-term economywide framework for emission reductions."

Congress is considering a range of legislation that would impose mandatory caps on carbon dioxide with an aim of reducing emissions by 50 to as much as 80 percent by 2050. All would allow a market emissions trading system aimed at reducing the cost, and some would provide a "safety valve" that would ease limits if the reductions become too costly.

President Bush has acknowledged the need to address global warming, but he has argued against mandatory emission reductions and contended that industry's voluntary actions are making progress. He also has argued that countries such as China, whose carbon emissions are growing rapidly, must act to cut emissions if the United States does so.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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