Large US companies that operate in global markets are preparing to reduce emissions following Russia’s ratification, despite the rejection of the protocol by US President George W Bush.

Manufacturers such as General Motors, DuPont, Xerox Corp and Dow Chemical Company have all signed up to strategies that will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide in coming years. DuPont expects to cut back by a staggering 65% by 2010.

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The reason behind their moves is that US companies make about a quarter of their sales outside the US. To remain competitive in countries that have adopted limits on emissions, they also will have to become more energy efficient. Otherwise they risk losing overseas competitiveness – and even their ability to operate in many markets.

US car makers, for example, are under increasing pressure to develop fuel-efficient cars for markets with strict rules on emissions. Most companies will be forced to invest heavily in emission reducing technology, even though the US (and Australia) rejected the treaty on grounds of economic cost.

According to Dow: “Countries we do business in have already taken steps to address greenhouse gas emissions. We are working to ensure that any mandatory programmes do not competitively disadvantage us.

“As a global company, these different developments pose challenges that we are learning to manage.”

Countries have until 2008 to begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions and until 2012 to comply fully with targets.

Russia’s ratification ensures that the treaty will come into force by giving it support from the countries that emit 55% of the world’s greenhouse gases.

With Russia’s signature, it is now almost certain that US companies will have to adapt.