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Businesses call for shift to low-carbon economy

The World Business Summit concludes with businesses urging policymakers to put a price on carbon emissions and encourage investment in green technologies.

A group of business executives on Tuesday issued a call for action on energy policy, arguing the cost of moving to cleaner energy technologies in the next decade will avert costs from climate change.

The Copenhagen Climate Council, an organization formed to create awareness for global climate negotiations in December, issued the statement at the conclusion of the World Business Summit, a three-day conference in Copenhagen of businesses and climate experts.

"The Copenhagen Call" document is a set of recommendations to policy makers, listing six policy changes required for businesses to make investments that will lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

To create a stronger incentive to invest in green technologies, the group said there needs to be an international carbon market built around a cap on emissions and the ability to trade permits to emit greenhouse gases.

The statement said that policy should be based on the target of lowering greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere by at least 50 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. To prevent temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, greenhouse gas emissions must peak this decade and then start dropping.

The "Call" also says standards and regulations can promote adoption of existing technologies, such as efficient appliances and vehicles.

"A shift to a low-carbon economy, supported by private sector participation and government, has the potential to drive the next generation of technological innovation, address the environmental and economic challenges that climate change presents, and contribute to global development," according to the statement.

Among the participants were executives from large corporations, including Unilever, BP, Duke Energy, and PepsiCo, and as well as high-ranking politicians. (Click here to see program and working group members.)

Carbon regulations will send a long-term signal that there is a price attached to carbon emissions that will push businesses to invest in low-emitting technologies, the participants said.

"We're going to have to fundamentally redefine our business models in a low-carbon world," an Associated Press article quoted Duke Energy CEO James Rogers saying. "Every business has to look inward and figure that out."

In general, smaller green-tech entrepreneurs and investors don't expect carbon regulations to have an immediate impact on their plans. The rules, which typically affect heavy polluters such as utilities, are expected to take years to fully implement.