Instead they pledged to urge their business partners and other companies to follow their lead, to develop energy efficient products and to encourage their customers to lead an environmentally friendly lifestyle.
"We are moving into a carbon-constrained world, a low-carbon economy — a new economy," said James Leape, director general of WWF International, which is supporting the initiative.
"We need champions. There are precious few political leaders in this world yet who are stepping up to the level of action that is required.
"Climate change would wreak havoc in natural systems of all kinds, from coral reefs to mountain forests, and it could cause — if unchecked — upheaval in all of our lives, and in the economies on which we depend," said Leape.
The captains of industry issued their call as officials from the United Nations and 21 countries wrapped up two days of talks in Tokyo as part of efforts to forge a new deal on fighting global warming by the end of next year.
The closed-door talks came ahead of negotiations in Bangkok from March 31 to April 4 on reaching a deal to succeed the landmark Kyoto Protocol, whose obligations on slashing gas emissions expire in 2012.
The meeting yielded no firm agreement but there was a "candid exchange of opinions", a Japanese foreign ministry official told reporters.
"Some industrialised countries said that developing nations are different and so should not all be treated the same on this issue," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The world’s second biggest economy after the United States, Japan is the home of the Kyoto Protocol, the landmark 1997 treaty that mandated cuts in greenhouse gas emissions heating up the planet.
But Japan is far behind in meeting its Kyoto commitments. The government has refused to legally bind companies to cap gas emissions, fearing that it could jeopardise the economy’s slow recovery from recession in the 1990s.
The WWF urged Japan to do more.
"I am struck that we’re not yet seeing Japan leading this issue the way one would expect, and I say that because Japan has been a leader in energy efficiency historically," Leape told reporters.
Japan aims to take a lead in the debate over measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions when it hosts this year’s summit of leaders from the Group of Eight industrialised nations in July.
"There’s a great opportunity here for Japan to lead over the next year because the G8 is so important as a political lever," said Leape.