A broad coalition of governments and companies will push for policies setting a price for carbon emissions at today’s UN climate summit.
The World Bank said that 73 national and 11 regional governments and some 1,000 companies have joined the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition – an effort to encourage countries to adopt measures such as carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems to drive a reduction in carbon emissions across the world and encourage a shift to cleaner energy technologies.
The announcement aims to build momentum for the high-profile UN summit on climate change opening today that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hopes will mobilise governments and the private sector to make "bold commitments" to address climate change.
The coalition includes big emitters such as China and EU countries alongside growing economies and some of the least developed nations, as well as companies such as airline group IAG and electric utility Électricité de France, which World Bank president Jim Yong Kim said will spur "action across their sectors, supply chains, and with their neighbours and allies”.
"Governments representing almost half of the world's population and 52 per cent of global GDP have thrown their weight behind a price on carbon as a necessary, if insufficient, solution to climate change and a step on the path to low-carbon growth," said Kim in a statement.
Setting a price for each ton of carbon that emitters produce sends an economic signal, forcing polluters to decide whether to reduce emissions, curtail their polluting activity, or pay for each ton they emit, and is the "least cost way" for countries to meet their environmental goals, Kim wrote in a recent blog post on the subject.
Around 40 countries and over 20 states, regions or cities have either set up or are planning to set up emissions trading schemes or carbon taxes. Together, they account for more than 22 per cent of global emissions.
But while states such as California and New York have their own carbon initiatives in place, a polarised US Congress has rejected measures to set a national price on carbon.
Many large companies believe widespread carbon pricing would signal long-term, stable investment rather than uncertain and potentially more costly policies in future, but UN special envoy for climate change Mary Robinson urged caution on carbon pricing, telling business leaders in New York that it can be "potentially unfair on the poorest" by raising food and fuel prices.
"We really need to understand the dimension of it," said Robinson, a former President of Ireland.
The summit will also see British Prime Minister David Cameron press for strong and early commitments from the international community ahead of next year's Paris conference, when a new global deal on action to limit climate change is planned, Downing Street said.
He will make clear that he will push for a target of at least 40 per cent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in Europe when he meets fellow EU leaders next month, but he risks sparking controversy by arguing that this should be seen as an opportunity for economic growth, calling on governments to cut "green tape" to encourage investment in new technologies such as shale gas.
No 10 said he will insist that countries should be allowed to choose their own mix of energy sources, provided overall carbon reduction targets are met, and will stress his belief that gas – including controversial shale gas – nuclear and carbon capture and storage all have a part to play in the cost-effective reduction of emissions.
A Downing Street source said: "We've got further to go in terms of explaining how tackling climate change isn't simply a green policy, it's a growth policy. If you're going to get the world's biggest economies to stick to the 2°C target, you've got to be serious about cutting green tape and creating green jobs."
Friends of the Earth campaigns and policy director Craig Bennett – who is attending the climate summit – said: "David Cameron's warm words on climate change are completely undermined by his policies at home – massive tax breaks for oil exploration and support for fracking will simply keep our economy hooked on dirty fossil fuels.
"Wealthy nations who have caused this crisis must now take the lead in building a cleaner, safer future based on energy efficiency and clean renewable power."