The President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso is urging companies to treat the fight against climate change as a business opportunity and not a burden.

His call comes ahead of Wednesday’s unveiling in Brussels of tough new greenhouse gas emission limits, which are necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% below 1990 levels by 2020.

“Governments don’t have all the answers” Mr Barroso will tell a business meeting this afternoon. “We need to incentivise the saving of the planet. Business must pick up the baton. I want you to seize this opportunity with both hands.”

But business lobby groups are working overtime to scupper the proposals.

Jeroen van der Veer, the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell and chair of the Climate Change working group of the European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT),  that represents 50 of Europe’s biggest industrial companies, has written to Barroso.

The letter warns against the EU’s plans saying it could encourage undesirable protectionist measures, such as import taxes on goods from countries without similar schemes, and severely damage the competitiveness of European industry by imposing costs that cannot be passed on to consumers.

Mr Van der Veer said “We are concerned that we might have a system that if you look at Europe in isolation could work, but the reality is that Europe is not isolated. We may destroy capacity here and import those goods from somewhere else and those imports might be even worse [in terms of carbon emissions].”

Think of it as an opportunity Mr der Veer, not a burden. Not my words, but Mr Barroso’s.