Climate VISION (Voluntary Innovative Sector Initiatives: Opportunities Now) will be administered through the Department of Energy's policy and international program.
Climate VISION is part of the president's stategy to address the long-term challenge of global climate change. As part of this strategy, he committed to reducing America's greenhouse gas intensity - the ratio of emissions to economic output - by 18 percent during the next decade.
"A year ago, I challenged American businesses to develop new, voluntary initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Bush said at a ceremony yesterday to announce the initiative. "I am pleased to announce today that 12 major industrial sectors, and the membership of the Business Roundtable, have responded with ambitious commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decade."
The twelve industry sectors include electric utilities; petroleum refiners and natural gas producers; chemical, automotive, magnesium, iron and steel manufacturers; forest and paper producers; railroads; and the mining, cement, aluminum and semiconductor industries.
"Every company in every sector of the economy has a role in helping control greenhouse gas emissions," said E. Linn Draper, chairman of the Business Roundtable's Environment, Technology & the Economy Task Force and chairman, president and CEO of American Electric Power. "The Business Roundtable's Climate RESOLVE initiative demonstrates our resolve to address global climate change."
He said the ultimate goal is 100 percent participation by Business Roundtable members in voluntary actions "to reduce, avoid, offset or sequester greenhouse gas emissions." Draper added, "The Business Roundtable's Climate RESOLVE initiative will show that voluntary actions can deliver solid results without government mandates and rigid compliance timetables."
In addition to its call for voluntary action, the Business Roundtable will assist members through workshops; one-on-one consulting support; an implementation workbook; and examples of cost-effective options to reduce, avoid, offset and sequester greenhouse gas emissions. The first workshop will be held later this month.
"President Bush has challenged us to be part of the solution to global climate change, and we have responded with an aggressive program that will reduce emissions intensity while safeguarding America's energy supplies," said Jim Seif, vice president of Corporate Services and former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. PLL, headquartered in Allentown, Pa., controls about 11,500 megawatts of generating capacity in the United States, sells energy in key U.S. markets and delivers electricity to customers in Pennsylvania, the United Kingdom and Latin America.
"Every corporation faces unique challenges when it comes to carbon intensity," said Seif. "The president's voluntary program recognizes these differences and allows each company to find the best way for its organization to reduce carbon."
He said PPL soon will begin an analysis of its facilities to find opportunities to reduce, sequester or avoid carbon emissions. Through its PPL Project Earth environmental program, the company already has reduced its corporate-wide sulfur dioxide rate by more than 50 percent, nitrogen oxide rate by more than 65 percent and carbon dioxide rate by more than 10 percent since 1990.
However, some of PPL's Pennsylvania neighbors aren't sold on Bush's initiative.
John Hanger, president and CEO of Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture) noted that state produces more global warming gas than 83 countries. He called the Climate VISION initiative "a bad vision for both businesses and the environment, guaranteed to increase global warming pollution and put many U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage."
Calling the plan "little more than a PR stunt," Hanger complained, "It will damage the environment and hurt the companies that are actually reducing their pollution. These companies - whose numbers are increasing as the evidence of environmental damage becomes clearer every day - are kept out of global trading markets for pollution reduction credits, and are forced to compete against companies that refuse to take meaningful action. All this plan does is give less responsible businesses political cover for their destructive policies, while enabling them to increase their actual pollution."
Although it recognized the White House for finally acknowledging the need for a climate program, the World Resources Institute (WRI) said it found the initiative to be lacking in any real environmental benefits.
A year ago, both the White House and many of these same corporations were in denial the problem of global warming even existed, said Jonathan Lash, president of WRI. This voluntary program is better than nothing under current political realities, but not much better.
Calling the initiative inherently flawed, Lash noted it reflects the same goals Bush announced in 2002 to reduce greenhouse gas gases, which WRI research found will not reduce such emissions, but will instead increase them by 14 percent by 2012.
Nature does not respond to symbolic gestures, said Lash. As a response to the greatest environmental threat of the 21st century, this approach is timid, late and unimaginative.
Administration officials remain undaunted by criticism. "The participants in Climate VISION will bring forward their best efforts, best ideas, technologies and industrial processes to reduce, avoid and sequester greenhouse gas emissions," said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.
"The industry leaders of America are answering the president's call to work with the federal government and take voluntary actions to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and for that, each of you should be commended for your initiative and leadership on this issue," added EPA Administrator Christie Whitman.
Information on the strategies each sector is pursuing is available on the DOE Web site (www.energy.gov).