Friday morning's business news

Businesses call for climate change action / Many firms are ignorant over new energy legislation / Positive start for the stock market

The leaders of 150 major global companies today called for a legally binding and comprehensive international deal on climate change.

In a communique, the businesses said they needed a mandatory agreement on emissions reductions to give them the confidence to invest in low-carbon technology.

The statement, led by the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change, is being sent to environment ministers and heads of state ahead of UN talks in Bali aimed at beginning negotiations on a post-2012 climate deal.

The ``Bali Communique" spells out the companies’ belief that: ``a sufficiently ambitious, international and comprehensive, legally-binding United Nations agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will provide business with the certainty it needs to scale up global investment in low-carbon technologies."

It has has been signed by household names such as Tesco, Lloyds TSB, Nike, Sky and Nokia.

Only one in three businesses are aware of new legislation on the energy performance of their buildings even though they face fines of £5,000, according to a new report today.

A survey of 500 senior managers by insurance firm Royal & SunAlliance found that just one in 10 knew a directive was coming into force next April requiring property owners and landlords to provide energy performance certificates when they build, sell or lease a commercial building.

Most of those surveyed said they did not know they could face fines of up to £5,000 for not complying with the directive.

The FTSE 100 Index opened in positive territory today as speculation over a further interest rate cut in the United States propped up markets.

With the Dow Jones Industrial Average higher last night, the Footsie gained 30 points in the opening moments of trading before settling 6.7 points higher at 6355.8 towards the end of the first hour of the session.

Market trends proved hard to spot, with banking stocks mixed at the end of another turbulent week. Royal Bank of Scotland rose 1.5p to 444.75p and Halifax Bank of Scotland added 3.5p to 788.5p, but Alliance & Leicester returned some of the gains seen yesterday as the stock slipped 11.5p to 674.5p, a drop of 2%.

Northern Rock shares fell 6%, or 7p to 109.7p, amid speculation that investment group Olivant could table a rival approach for the mortgage lender in the next week,

On a quiet day for corporate results, brewer Marston’s slipped 1% as it reported a 3% dip in annual profits. The decline had been expected following the summer floods, but Marston’s offered some encouragement by reporting a healthy start to the new financial year. Shares were down 3p at 320.5p.

The pound at 9am was 2.0667 dollars compared to 2.0642 dollars at the previous close. The euro at 9am was 0.7138 pounds compared to 0.7157 pounds at the previous close.

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