Multinationals call for zero-carbon policies

9th April 2014

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Alasdair Revie

Kingfisher, Shell and Unilever are among 70 businesses urging governments to take rapid action to ensure the global economy can become zero-carbon by 2100

The firms, which are members of the Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group, have signed a communique calling on politicians worldwide to adopt policies that will incentivise the switch to low-carbon technologies, including action to ensure a “robust” carbon price.

The companies cite research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which states that to keep global warming below 2°C total cumulative global carbon emissions cannot exceed one trillion tonnes. Despite the fact that more than 500,000 tonnes of CO2 has already been emitted, putting the world on track to breach its carbon budget by 2034, the firms claim it remains possible to keep manmade CO2 below the critical trillion tonne mark.

“To keep cumulative emissions below one trillion tonnes of manmade CO2 global emissions need to peak and begin to decline as soon as possible, achieving net-zero before the end of the century,” states the communique.

“We believe that the transition to a net-zero emission economy can be delivered in ways that create new business opportunities, with manageable costs.”

Ahead of the UN meeting in Paris next year to agree the successor to the Kyoto protocol, the businesses, which include GlaxoSmithKline, Heathrow, Marks & Spencer and Sky, call on policymakers to set a timeline for achieving net zero carbon emissions before the end of the century. A “credible strategy” to transform the energy system is also needed, alongside a plan to manage the world’s reliance on fossil fuels, in particular coal, they say.

The firms acknowledge that to become zero-carbon much greater energy and resource efficiency will be needed across the built environment, energy, industry and transport sectors, but that government policies were needed to drive that change.

“We will need to completely reformulate our relationship with energy as new infrastructure, technologies, processes and business models for the 21st century are introduced,” states the document.

“The policy framework, including fiscal incentives, needs to be adjusted to shift investment and stimulate innovation into low-carbon energy infrastructure. This must incorporate a robust carbon price.”

Sir Ian Cheshire, group chief executive at Kingfisher, said: “Businesses cannot act alone: they need clear regulatory frameworks to provide certainty and help them drive transformation towards a more energy secure future.”

Meanwhile, Niall Dunne, chief sustainability officer at BT, commented: “We need to get beyond the concept that progressive climate change policy is bad for business: it can be a huge driver of innovation and create opportunities for growth and prosperity.

“Conversely, there isn’t an organisation I know of which isn’t already being impacted by climate change at some level. Collective responsibility across governments, business and civic society is vital to ensure the world is on track for net zero emissions before the end of the century.”

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