Policymakers must use the trillions of dollars they are preparing to inject into their economies to support efforts to tackle climate change, urges a coalition of 155 companies that have set science-based targets. Terry Slavin reports
With key decisions on Covid-19 recovery efforts in Europe and the US due to be made this week, 155 multinational companies today issued a statement reaffirming their own science-based commitments to achieve a zero-carbon economy and calling on governments around the world to match their ambition.
At the same time more than 220 state and regional governments, part of the Climate Group-co-ordinated Under2 Coalition, issued a statement urging decision-makers at all levels to place the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals at the core of economic recovery measures.
The coalition of companies, which are all part of the Science Based Targets initiative, include Carlsberg Group, Adobe, Sky, H&M Group, IKEA, Mars, Nestlé, and Coca-Cola European Partners. It is the biggest statement yet from the corporate world linking the climate crisis and Covid-19 recovery, with the companies collectively worth $2.4tn and employing more than 5 million people.
They call on policymakers to use the trillions of dollars they are preparing to inject into their economies to support efforts to hold global temperature rise to within 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, in line with reaching net-zero emissions well before 2050.
Governments can be reassured that businesses are implementing science-based targets to get us on a 1.5C trajectory
Of the 155 signatories, 36 have already set 1.5C-aligned science-based targets, and another 63 have committed to align with 1.5C through the Business Ambition for 1.5C campaign. The remaining signatories have set science-based targets aligned with 2C.
María Mendiluce, CEO of the We Mean Business coalition, said: “Governments can be reassured that businesses are implementing science-based targets to get us on a 1.5C trajectory. They are calling for recovery policies that will boost the economy and build resilience. A net-zero aligned recovery will enable companies to invest and innovate at the pace and scale necessary to build back better, creating decent jobs, protecting health, reducing emissions and increasing resilience in the future.” (See 'We can’t just talk about Science-Based Targets' in wake of Covid-19, say business groups)
This week the US HEROES stimulus package, which was passed by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives last Friday, moves to the Republican-controlled Senate, while in Europe the future of the European Green Deal is in the balance as MEPs debate the EU's recovery package, ahead of a landmark G7 Virtual Summit on 10 June.
According to a study by the Oxford Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, published earlier this month, decisive state intervention is required to stabilise the climate, just as state intervention has been required to prevent health systems being overwhelmed during the pandemic.
“The recovery packages can either kill these two birds with one stone – setting the global economy on a pathway towards net-zero emissions – or lock us into a fossil system from which it will be nearly impossible to escape,” the authors warn.
They point out the postponement of the COP26 climate negotiations to 2021, “hopefully after the peak of Covid-19 crisis, offers an opportunity for countries to collaborate and share knowledge on climate-positive economic recovery packages. Global collaboration and strengthening the mandate and financing of global decision-making bodies is essential, not only to ensure an effective response to the virus, but also to facilitate ongoing collaboration in the climate domain.”
It would be a tragedy if after spending $10-20tn of public money we simply rebuild the same unequal, vulnerable and high-carbon economy we had before
Dr Andrew Steer, president and CEO of World Resources Institute and SBTi board member, said: “It is imperative that we not only restart the world economy – but also reset it. It would be a tragedy if after spending $10-20 trillion of public money we simply rebuild the same unequal, vulnerable and high-carbon economy we had before.”
The Under2 Coalition statement cited research from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate that moving to a zero-emission future can deliver economic benefits of $26tn through to 2030, create 65 million new low-carbon jobs and avoid 700,000 premature deaths from air pollution.
The coalition, which was co-founded by California and the German state of Baden-Württemberg ahead of the Paris Climate talks in 2015, has grown from 12 sub-national governments to 220, which together represent 1.3 billion people and 43% of the world economy.
Each has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050 while 19 members have set net-zero emissions targets. In the US, 26 cities and states are signatories, while UK members include Scotland, Wales and the cities of Bristol and Greater Manchester City.
Coronavirus Under2 Coalition SDGs Paris Agreement Science Based Targets Initiative We Mean Business COP26 WRI Global Commission on the Economy and Climate