Unlike the US administration, corporate is not belittling the science behind the climate change. They are stepping forward to break the current policy-making impasse on global climate in the US.
Corporations perceive the shift in consumer attitude as awareness grows about climate changes. Companies, operating on a global scale, are beginning to see the costs and the benefits of the climate game, General Motors, for instance, is betting big dollars – already $1 billion – on fuel cell research.
It is courting rival Toyota, a leader in hybrid technology with fuel cells research on the side, to undertake joint R&D, to create an engineering feat which many, including Toyota, think is still decades away.
GM hopes not. It plans to sell cars that leave only water vapour from their tailpipes by 2010. more than 1,000 people in 14 countries are looking to find a way to pack technologically challenging but omnipresent hydrogen into and unconventional car engine.
Sandia National Laboratories in California, its joint venture with Raytheon and Boeing, is working on so-called solid state. It is partnering up with oil group Shell to develop hydrogen in its solid state. It is partnering up with oil group Shell to develop hydrogen filling stations.
Though not on the scale of GM, other carmakers have also embarked on the path. Most of them have fuel-cell demonstration vehicles on the road. Honda is running its prototypes in the cold of Japan’s northernmost region, testing its anti-freezing technology.
DaimlerChrysler has nearly 100 such vehicles up and running, though it hopes its clean diesel technology will be the winner.
When the world’s two largest carmakers combine their brains and money, it is just possible that fuel-cell systems at affordable prices may not be so remote. The project dubbed Project Apollo, would tap into their combined $20 billion fund for research.
Other corporate giants are going green as well. General Electric, the world’s largest conglomerate, is doubling its research and development spending on clean energy to 1.5$ billion.
“I think (global warming) is something we need to start figuring out and taking proactive step to make improvement s on,” the GE chairman ND Chief Executive, Mr. Jeffrey Immeelt, said recently.
GE’s ‘ecomagination’ initiative calls for increased spending to develop new technologies such as wind power generation, diesel-electric hybrid locomotives, more efficient aircraft engines and appliances, and advanced water treatment systems.
Ms Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Centre for climate change, called it an act of courage “to say that they want to be part of the policy dialogue, which is very difficult in the US at this moment”.
GE has committed itself to effect a one percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions (as opposed to a 40 per cent increase under business as usual) and a 30 per cent improvement in energy efficiency by 2012.
In the same week at a UN conference in New York, two dozen institutional investors pledged to invest $1 billion in renewable energy technologies to help climate change.
A 10-point action plan that was adopted for US companies and Wall Street firms to make assessment of climate-change risk an integral part of their asset assessment and reporting, and to work with investors on reducing those risks.
It is not such a bad start for the Kyoto Protocol, which many thought would never get off the ground because the Bush administration withdrew form it.