World’s biggest companies pledge to deliver bold zero emissions targets

Written by

Tim Greenhalgh

Posted on

July 23, 2019

A group of the world’s biggest companies today announced bold new greenhouse gas emissions goals to help achieve zero-emission goals globally.

The move comes as the UN Secretary-General António Guterres appealed directly to every head of state to deliver carbon neutral plans.

The 28 companies, with a total market capitalisation of $1.3 trillion, commit to more ambitious climate targets aligned with limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and reaching net-zero emissions by no later than 2050.

In a joint statement, the UN Global Compact, We Mean Business coalition of green corporates, and the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) advised the number of large companies publicly committing to become net zero emission operations by 2050 will increase more than seven-fold over the next few months.

Climate Action Summit

The radical targets on climate action are a response to a call-to-action campaign ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit on 23 September and will to bring the companies into line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C temperature threshold.

Among the first movers in the group are Acciona, AstraZeneca, Banka BioLoo, BT, Dalmia Cement Ltd., Eco-Steel Africa Ltd., Enel, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Iberdrola, KLP, Levi Strauss & Co., Mahindra Group, Natura &Co, Novozymes, Royal DSM, SAP, Signify, Singtel, Telefonica, Telia, Unilever, Vodafone Group PLC and Zurich Insurance.

They collectively have more than one million employees from 17 sectors and more than 16 countries. BT, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Levi Strauss & Co. and SAP already have 1.5°C-aligned reduction targets covering greenhouse gas emissions from their operations. The 23 big hitters are also joined by five leading SMEs. Full list of  companies

The companies are committed to setting measurable and rational goals through the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), which independently assesses corporate emissions reduction targets against the latest climate science.

Lise Kingo, CEO and Executive Director of the UN Global Compact said:

 “Climate leadership has never been more important than it is right now, and it is inspiring to see so many diverse companies and brands boldly raising their ambitions,” said

“Leading companies are already proving that 1.5°C-compliant climate targets are possible, and I encourage all businesses to seize this opportunity to position themselves at the forefront of this movement and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

UN appeal

The announcement follows the move by the UN Secretary-General to ask every head of state for their plans to ensure carbon neutrality by mid-century.

His letter sets out expectations for the next crucial UN climate meeting on September 23 in New York, asking governments to announce by August 7 “a brief summary or an indication of the plans” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for 2030 and to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

It is expected that only the countries that have delivered the boldest emission reductions plans will to be invited to speak in a high profile plenary session.

Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Climate Action Summit said:

“The UN Secretary-General has called on leaders to come to the Climate Action Summit in September with clear plans for major cuts to emissions on the pathway to a zero-net emissions economy by 2050.

“It is very encouraging to see these climate leaders in the global business community taking action, both to help tackle the climate emergency and because taking climate action presents huge opportunities for early movers. By sending strong market signals, these companies are showing Governments that they need to urgently ramp up their national plans in line with the latest climate science.”

European countries, including the UK and France, that have set new net zero targets should be leading the way, and there are big hopes that many more corporate will join the net zero battle, announcing similar targets,

And these are effectively supported and guided by the scientific community. Paul Simpson, SBTi Board Member and CEO of CDP advises:

“The science is clear: To limit the catastrophic impacts of climate change, we must ensure warming does not exceed 1.5°C. The ambition is high, but it’s achievable — and science-based targets give companies a roadmap for getting there. We urge all companies to seize this chance to align their business with a 1.5°C future and drive forward the transition to a net-zero carbon economy.”

Tenacious leadership and strong commitment by governments and business are seen as the only effective way to build a prosperous, net zero carbon economy by mid-century, combining clarity of policy with sustainable strategies.

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