Obama says Paris climate pledge good for U.S. business

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Monday argued that his push for an international climate deal next month in Paris was good for U.S. businesses, meeting with a group of chief executives to underscore his point. Republicans have said that Obama's move to cut carbon emissions from power plants - key to the U.S. pledge for United Nations climate negotiations in Paris - would hurt U.S. businesses and jobs. But Obama said that was not the case. "The perception is that this is an environmental issue, it's for tree-huggers, and that hard-headed business people either don't care about it or see it as a conflict with their bottom lines," Obama told reporters after the meeting. "I just want everybody to understand that American businesses want this to happen as well," he said. Obama said 81 companies, including Intel, Johnson & Johnson and Berkshire Hathaway have backed a U.S.-sponsored pledge supporting action to combat climate change, supporting the U.S. stance in the Paris talks. Obama name-checked WalMart Stores Inc for installing solar capacity, Intel, which has invested in energy and water conservation programs, and Google, Apple and Costco for their purchases of renewable energy, among others. More corporations are expected to sign the pledge before the Paris conference begins on Nov. 30, senior adviser to the president Brian Deese told a call with reporters. The pledge's signatories announced on Monday span the spectrum of major American corporations, and also include Bank of America, Best Buy, Coca-Cola, and General Motors. The White House said it also expects a consortium of major investors to announce on Monday $1.2 billion in investment capital for companies and projects that can "produce impactful and profitable solutions to climate change." The initial group of investors includes the University of California, TIAA-Cref and the Alaska Permanent Fund, according to the White House. (Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Roberta Rampton; editing by Susan Heavey, Bernard Orr)