Business leaders call for net-zero emissions by 2050

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Richard Branson among signatories of letter to heads of state calling for a Paris deal to include a long-term climate goal

A group of twenty-two major business and civil society leaders, including Sir Richard Branson and Unilever boss Paul Polman, have signed a letter to heads of state requesting that an "actionable" long-term emissions goal be included in a Paris climate agreement.

The letter, which was arranged by business-led environmental coalition The B Team, called for any Paris deal to include a global commitment to achieve a net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions economy by 2050.

"We know this is ambitious, but it is ambition that will generate the global momentum and focus that is critical to success," the letter said. "The science, economic costs and social risks of climate change are becoming increasingly clear. We believe that securing a long-term goal in Paris should therefore be an urgent personal priority for you, as it is for all of us."

Among a host of other high profile names, the letter was signed by Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, Kering and Harley-Davidson director Jochen Zeitz, and Unilever chief-executive Paul Polman.

"Now it's time for world leaders to take a stand and COP21 is that opportunity," said Branson in a statement. "Governments must come together and sign a powerful and legally binding global agreement that will tackle climate change and create a lasting impact."

The signatories also pledged to stand by political leaders in driving forward an ambitious agenda, while urging them to "clarify" their vision.

In addition, the letter also recognised the responsibilities of business leaders in achieving this goal, and highlighted that 10 of the signatories have already set a 2050 target for their companies to have net-zero emissions.

Earlier this year, the G7 group of nations committed to fully phasing out fossil fuels during the second half of the century and a number of countries, including the UK are pushing for the Paris talks to agree a similar long term net zero emission goal. However, earlier this week UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd admitted there was still some disagreement at the negotiations over whether to include such a target.

This article is part of BusinessGreen's Road to Paris hub, hosted in association with PwC.

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