Business leaders across the region have been warned that a carbon-rationing regime is likely to be in place by the end of this decade - unless they drastically reduce their use of fossil fuels. The claim was made in a speech by Dr Mayer Hillman, Senior Fellow Emeritus with the Policy Studies Institute, at the Business in the Community (BITC) Environment Conference 2006 in Leeds.

The conference offered business advice on mitigating risks and making the most of future environmental opportunities associated with growing issues such as climate change.

Dr Hillman highlighted that there are phenomenal opportunities for businesses that embrace the massive changes ahead. He predicted that under a carbon rationing system the nation will become more community orientated.

Graham Dixon, director of the waste water business unit at Yorkshire Water joined Dr Hillman as keynote speaker at the event, which was chaired by journalist and broadcaster John Craven and supported by the Environment Agency.

Mr Dixon, who is also chairman of Business in the Community's (BITC) Regional Environmental Leader's Group, said: "There's a tremendous amount of work going on in the region to improve the business community's impact on the environment, minimise waste and promote recycling."

Steve Smith, group environmental manager at BITC member company Hallmark Cards, said: "The conference is a powerful event with excellent opportunities to share best practice with like-minded companies.

"More organisations are realising that good environmental management brings business boosting benefits. It is vital that businesses are more aware of their impact on the environment." BITC is supported by Yorkshire Forward and aims to encourage businesses in the region to continually improve their positive impact on the local community.