Image: Moeller, Ki-moon
Tariq Mikkel Khan  /  AP
Denmark's Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, left, and United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon talk Monday during a sailing trip to an off-shore wind mill park outside Copenhagen, Denmark.
updated 5/25/2009 2:05:09 PM ET 2009-05-25T18:05:09

Hoping to create a global carbon market, the organizers of a world business summit on climate change said Monday that 2 million new jobs would be created in the U.S. alone if it increased its reliance on cleaner sources of energy.

The Copenhagen Climate Council study said the United States would gain that many jobs if its electricity use grew by just half of 1 percent a year and a quarter of its electricity came from wind energy and other renewable sources.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told the CEOs of major international corporations that similar investments could produce a million new jobs in European Union countries.

"Change also brings big economic opportunities," he said.

The predictions came at a global business summit where corporate leaders are focusing on how to help politicians negotiate a new global climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto treaty that expires in 2012.

In 2007, EU leaders pledged that by 2020 the European Union would cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other major warming gases by at least 20 percent from 1990 levels, and increase its reliance on renewable energy sources to one-fifth of all its energy used.

"Achieving a 20 percent share for renewables, for example, could mean more than a million jobs in this industry by 2020," Barroso said. Such a plan must be joined, he said, by "a satisfactory international climate agreement in which other developed and developing countries contribute their fair share to the limiting global emissions."

Barroso said the EU intends to limit the cost of its package to about half of 1 percent of its GDP.

"Some people, however, have questioned whether this is the right direction for Europe during the economic crisis," he said, but the answer is that "the costs of climate change will be much higher if we don't make adjustments now."

He said the hoped-for December agreement in Copenhagen on a U.N.-administered treaty will be "a major milestone on the path to a global carbon market which would increase business opportunities, particularly for European industry, and help to bring average carbon costs further down."

BP PLC Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward said most executives he had spoken with agree the world "is going to establish a carbon price" — making carbon emissions a global commodity, with a universally accepted price, probably through a so-called "cap-and-trade" system by governments and the marketplace.

"I think we can craft some pretty clear direction," Hayward said.

That approach requires governments to sign a new U.N.-administered treaty for regulating greenhouse gases to set limits on carbon dioxide and then issue permits to companies that divvy up how much of the overall pollution each of them can emit. Any unused portions can be traded to other companies.

The other option is a direct carbon tax, favored by some at the meeting.

Also Monday, at a meeting in Paris, France's environment minister urged the world's biggest polluters to slash carbon emissions to slow what he called the probably irreversible tide of global warming.

Just how far governments are willing to go is the key question at talks in Paris this week among top environment officials from the United States, China and 15 other high-polluting nations.

"No one contests the urgency of the problem," French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said in opening the Major Economies Forum talks. "No one contests the probably irreversible character of the problem."

Activists say governments of rich countries are not being ambitious enough in their emissions targets, and protests outside the French Foreign Ministry are planned during the two-day meeting.

The environment chiefs also are discussing how to raise $100 billion a year to help poor countries adapt to climate change. Getting such countries on board is seen as important to reaching the global climate pact at meetings in Copenhagen in December aimed at replacing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

The countries represented at the Major Economies Forum account for 80 percent of the global emissions of heat-trapping gases.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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