Interface, Unilever and Coca-Cola among business leaders calling for UK net-zero emissions target

The chief executives of major UK-based companies including Interface, Coca-Cola European Partners and Unilever have called for Prime Minister Theresa May to set legally binding targets that ensure the UK reaches net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.

In a letter sent to the Prime Minister on Monday (26 November), the bosses of Anglian Water, Coca-Cola European Partners, Danone, IAG, Interface, Scottish Power, Signify UK & Ireland, SSE, Thames Water Utilities and Unilever called for more ambitious climate goals that are aligned to the latest scientific evidence.

Coordinated by the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, the letter highlights the warnings set out in the recent IPCC report, which notes that potentially catastrophic differences between a 1.5C increase in global temperatures and the projected 3C increase.

“We believe that to fulfil the promises made in the Paris Agreement, advanced economies like the UK should aim for net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest and hope the Government will carefully study the evidence in the recent IPCC report and set its ambition accordingly,” the letter states.

“As business leaders, we understand that stretching goals bring challenges, but we are also aware that the transition to a climate-safe world with net zero emissions is necessary, that the work to achieve this has already begun, and that human ingenuity can achieve wonders.”

Coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the Climate Change Act, the letter notes the importance of a government-led goal in creating an enabling environment for business to “grasp the tremendous economic opportunities” that a low-carbon transition presents.

The business leaders note that the UK has acted as a leader on climate change since the publication of the Climate Change Act. Over the 10-year period, emissions have fallen by more than 40%, decoupling from an economy that has grown by around 70%, the letter adds. Recent data has also revealed that green industries are the fastest-growing parts of the UK economy.

The letter welcomes the recent announcement that the UK Government would seek advice from the Committee on Climate Change on how best to bolster its carbon reduction targets and create a net-zero economy.

Two months ago, Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed that the UK would join the Carbon Neutrality Coalition – an initiative led by New Zealand and the Marshall Islands to deliver ambitious actions in support of the Paris Agreement aim of net-zero emissions by the second half of the century.

Growing calls

The 10 firms join an ever-growing list of influential businesses and policymakers calling for a net-zero target by 2050. Last week, for example, 50 Conservative MPs called on the Prime Minister to adopt the goal.

Earlier in the year, Labour committed itself to a net-zero target of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. Former Labour leader Ed Miliband has called on the UK Government to enshrine a new net-zero emissions target for 2050, while more than 100 MPs have since signed a letter calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to commit to a net-zero target.

The UK is committed to cut emissions by 80% by 2050, while the Fifth Carbon Budget, covering 2028 to 2032, agrees to reduce emissions by an average of 57% on 1990 levels over the period.

BEIS at edie’s Sustainability Leaders Forum

Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Claire Perry will appear at edie’s Sustainability Leaders Forum to discuss how the Clean Growth Strategy will move from ambition to action and how Brexit will shape Britain’s low-carbon, and possibly net-zero carbon, future.

The two-day event, taking place 5 & 6 February 2019 at the Building Design Centre, London, will also discuss why 2019 is the year of green finance, climate reporting and capitalising on the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations.

For more information and to register for the Forum, click here.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie