Industry has struggled to sway U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen because of a remote negotiating process and a lobby split between climate policy winners and losers, executives said on Friday.
U.N. talks in Copenhagen are meant to agree the outline of a new treaty, including sharp cuts in carbon emissions, at a forum which does not involve business directly.
Senior executives met at a separate location several miles from the December 7-18 U.N. talks, and accepted that the business lobby was split on climate action which could disadvantage energy-intensive sectors including cement and power generation.
"It's difficult to imagine one voice," Duke Energy Chief Executive Jim Rogers told Reuters.
"In truth there are many voices. It's going to make it much more difficult, a low-carbon solution. There are basic things (we agree): we need a clear way forward, to act now and a price on carbon."
Analysts estimate that business will have to supply about 80 percent of the capital to pay for a new low-carbon economy, for example in power generation, factories and agriculture.
"We should talk to each other before (these U.N. meetings) and deliver our messages to national negotiators. The cement sector in China is not different from cement in France. We've got a lot to learn from the NGOs (non-governmental organizations)," said Bill Kyte, climate adviser to E.ON and the power sector lobby group Eurelectric.
Environment and development groups are highly mobilized at the climate talks, making their voice heard through protests and close links with the media.
One trouble finding a common business voice is that lobbies are very broad, and focus on limiting unilateral action.
The European Union business lobby Business Europe this week advised that the EU did not increase its carbon-cutting target for 2020, as it is considering, without a global climate deal.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce lost some members when it opposed a U.S. climate bill, narrowly approved in the House of Representatives, and which it described as a burden on business.
But a Chamber executive told Reuters that it may support a compromise bill in the Senate, which will vote next year, made by Senators John Kerry, Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham.
"Perhaps the approach might be something that could form the basis for a piece of legislation we could support, but there's still a lot to sort out," said Stephen Eule, in the Chamber's first response to the senators' initiative outlined on Thursday.
"I think this is a good basis to start with."
Executives at Friday's Copenhagen meeting were largely drawn from the low-carbon sector.
"They'll end up on the losing side of where we're going," said Bjorn Stigson, head of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, referring to business skeptics.
Duke Energy's Rogers said China was demonstrating how to make money from climate change.
"They're going to cross the bridge to a low-carbon world and make money doing it," he said. China is the world's biggest producer of solar panels and the biggest wind market.
Some executives pointed the finger at a U.N. climate process which was inaccessible and produced vague results.
"We need clear objectives. I expect lots of fudge," Kyte told Reuters, saying he had attended every annual U.N. climate meeting, of which Copenhagen is the latest, since 1992 in Brazil. He was speaking in a personal capacity.
"Give business clear objectives and we will deliver."
© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.