The US company General Motors (GM) last week became the third major automobile manufacturer to withdraw from a lobbying group that has been leading opposition to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an accord designed to reduce global warming.

The move brings to five the number of large corporations that have recently resigned from the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), an 11-year-old industry coalition that vigorously opposes the Kyoto Protocol.

GM told the group last week that it was not renewing its membership. Its withdrawal follows that of Ford in December and DaimlerChrysler in January. The oil company Texaco and The Southern Company, a large US power company, have also recently resigned (see Nature 404 , 118; 2000.)

In response, the GCC announced that it would no longer allow individual companies as members, but only trade associations, cutting its membership from 50 to 14. “We wanted to take this membership issue… out of the lexicon,” says Frank Maisano, a GCC spokesman. “It's a distraction from the real debate.”

Mia Walton, a spokeswoman for GM, says that GM's move reflects a desire “to take a global, holistic, more ‘GM’ approach to the issue” of climate change. “The Global Climate Coalition has tended to be a North American or US-focused entity,” she says. GM has plants in 53 countries and sells products in over 200. Walton adds that GM's opposition to the Kyoto Protocol still stands. Like the GCC, the company opposes the treaty's binding targets and timetables, and objects to the fact that it does not require participation on the same terms by all countries.

Some observers say that the corporations' withdrawals may simply reflect the lower prospects of ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by the US Senate. And with little prospect of ratification imminent, it is said, the companies can afford to polish their public images by withdrawing from GCC.

Whatever the motivation, the move appears to have weakened the GCC. Other major companies have left the lobby group in the past. In 1998, the British/Dutch oil company Shell withdrew, and in 1996, BP did the same (see Nature 392, 856; 1998 and 383, 470; 1996.)