Businesses implore world leaders not to stall low-carbon transition

Pictured: The closing session of the last UN climate COP in Dubai. Image: COP28 / Mahmoud Khaled, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

An open letter to all heads of state released today (24 June) emphasises the importance of national governments updating their plans for delivering their fair share of emissions reductions committed to under the Paris Agreement.

The call to action, which coincides with the start of London Climate Action Week, is being supported by dozens of chief executives, sustainability professionals, regional policymakers, investors, NGOs and climate scientists.

Countries are meant to update their Paris Agreement delivery plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), by February 2025 at the latest. It is hoped that some will prepare sooner, for the next UN-convened annual climate summit (COP29) in Baku this November.

The open letter intends to give world leaders permission to be bold in this process. It calls for a ‘Mission 2025’, stating: “We – as representatives of the world’s largest business networks, cities, regions, philanthropies – are ready to embolden governments to set more ambitious plans and accelerate implementation.

“We know this can unlock trillions in private investment to protect our nature, scale cheap renewable energy, support industries to compete in a low-carbon economy, and safeguard living standards equitably for our people.”

The letter hails the progress made so far by national governments to bring down clean energy costs and enhance requirements for the private sector to cut emissions. It also notes commitments made at COP28 to treble the world’s renewable energy generation capacity this decade and to drive a “just, orderly and equitable” energy transition.

But it alludes to fears that progress is slowing amid challenges such as national elections and economic downturns, just when acceleration is needed. It argues that a slowdown has not yet happened but could in the future without further intervention.

It adds: “Now we need to go much faster, together: the focus must be on implementation…. Help us unlock the momentum needed for this transition to happen at the speed and scale required, and with the equity deserved.”

Representatives from the We Mean Business Coalition, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WMBCSD), The B Team, the Climate Group, the Bezos Earth Fund, Ikea, 2150 and Unilever are among the letter’s supporters.

‘If we want to get back on track to achieving our global climate goals, we must use the next 18 months to set off a positive feedback loop between ambitious policy and private sector action,” WBCSD president and chief executive Peter Bakker said.

“Mission 2025 is a crucial step in that direction with real economy voices across the globe signaling their willingness and readiness to play their part. The ball is now in the court of national governments who must heed this call and create the facilitative policies that will unlock faster action.”

The Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Simon Stiell, said: “The chorus of business leaders, investors and mayors calling for more ambition in economy-wide national climate plans is growing louder and clearer, as global decarbonization gathers pace.

“It shows real economy actors are eagerly awaiting the bolder policy signals that will enable them to move faster, invest much more, and help ensure NDCs 3.0 fulfill their full potential as blueprints for stronger economies and fairer societies, particularly when supported by adequate finance.”

Planning gap

Recent analysis from the Energy Transitions Commission, which is supporting the open letter, highlighted the gap between current NDCs and those which would be aligned with the Paris Agreement.

Existing NDCs will only reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 6 GtCO2e of emissions savings per year by 2035. However, a 1.5C-aligned pathway would require a 23-30 GtCO2e reduction by 2035.

The Commission is calling for new NDCs to be “clear and detailed”, including sector-specific, time-bound emissions goals for a range of industries beyond energy and power. They should also include more robust plans for unlocking finance for climate mitigation and adaptation.

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