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BP pushes sustainability

BP'S CHIEF executive has called on business and government leaders to tackle "two principal risks" to the world's economy: climate change and energy security. Climate change is the more pressing risk, John Browne said in a speech at the University of Michigan last month. "To do nothing, to live in denial, to pass the problem to another generation, will increase the cost of the action and will increase the risk that the action comes too late."

Endorsing the findings of last month's Stern report (see p8), Browne said sustainability is essential to any viable business. "You have to examine the things that threaten the sustainability of the relationship [between business and customer]," he said. "And in a spirit of mutual advantage you have to examine what you can do, as a business, to remove those threats ... to ensure one transaction leads to another, and another."

He added: "So sustainability ... is not an add-on, or something to do with charity or public relations. The business of business is business, and sustainability is about achieving enduring commercial success."

However, the second threat to the world economy, said Browne, would come from the increasing concentration of oil and gas resources in the hands of producers in the Middle East, Russia and Central Asia, "some of whom may be prepared to use energy as a political weapon in times of conflict". He added that decisions on resource development will not always be taken on the basis of "rational market economics, but on the grounds of narrow national interest".

To face both threats, Browne called on business and government to "look beyond oil and gas to fuels that can be produced locally and that do not threaten the sustainability of the world's climate". These include biofuels and renewables, including wind and solar power, which offer "the potential of a new natural source of supply in this country [the US] and elsewhere". In addition, carbon capture and storage to produce carbon-free electricity was a technology that could work with any form of hydrocarbon, including coal, said Browne.

Browne also spoke about the accident at BP's refinery in Texas City in 2005, which left 15 people dead. He admitted the company must "change what needs to be changed" and "improve" (see p32).n

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