Secretary of State and COP26 President Alok Sharma urges companies, cities and regions to “unite behind a green global recovery” and join new Race to Zero campaign, which will run until COP26 in Glasgow.
The groundswell of support for climate action and a green economic recovery will grow further today, with the official launch of an unprecedented alliance of private and public actors who have joined forces for a new campaign that seeks to turbocharge the adoption of net zero emissions strategies across the world ahead of the COP26 climate conference.
The 'Race to Zero' campaign, launched by the UNFCCC's Champions for Climate Action to mark World Environment Day, comprises roughly 1,000 businesses with annual revenues totalling $4.72tr, as well as 458 cities, 505 universities, 24 regions, and 36 major investors. As such it represents one of the most significant calls for a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis to date, building on a raft of similar interventions from business and campaign groups in recent weeks.
All participants in the campaign have committed to submit a plan on how they intend to reach net zero emissions by mid-century ahead of the rescheduled COP26 Climate Summit, which is now slated to take place in Glasgow in November next year. Plans must meet specific criteria set out by the University of Oxford and include shorter-term interim targets as well as a long term net zero goal.
Following the campaign's launch, net zero-aligned businesses and governments now cover more than half of global GDP and a quarter of carbon emissions, according to an analysis published today by the UK's Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) that combines the clout of the latest 'real economy' signatories to the 'Race to Net Zero' campaign with the 120 national and regional government's signed up to the UN's Climate Ambition Alliance.
The scale of net zero pledges represents a 38 per cent increase on commitments since the UN's last climate conference, held just seven months ago in Madrid, according to the UNFCC.
The new campaign will be stewarded by the UK and Chile as incoming and outgoing COP presidents, respectively.
Alok Sharma, COP26 president and UK Business Secretary, urged cities, companies, and regions to embrace a climate-resilient recovery from the pandemic by setting net zero goals, reiterating previous calls made in recent weeks by the UK government.
"As we recover from the coronavirus, the world has an opportunity to not just rebuild what went before, but to build back better, uniting behind a green global recovery," he said in a statement issued before he was this week forced to self-isolate after experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms. "We all need to do our part and I would encourage everyone to join the race to zero and commit your region, city or company to reaching net zero by 2050 at the latest."
UN climate change executive secretary, Patricia Espinosa, said a flurry of new net zero pledges ahead of the COP26 Summit would work alongside countries' updated national climate strategies - known as Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs in the UN jargon - to highlight the need for short-term climate action. "Complementing the urgent need for nations to submit NDCs this year, Race to Zero is not a campaign of the future, but a campaign of today," she said. "That's why all members are demonstrating how they're already in the race to zero, by publishing immediate plans by COP26 and setting interim targets in 2025 and 2030."
Of the 996 companies that have joined the campaign, 237 have already aligned their business with a Paris Agreement-compatible emissions target through the Business for 1.5C campaign, according to the UNFCCC. Meanwhile, a raft of new signatories signed up today to the campaign, include high profile firms such as Adobe, Brunswick Group, Diageo, H&M, and Rolls-Royce.
The Climate Pledge, a campaign co-founded by Amazon and think tank Global Optimism that lobbies corporates to commit to net zero by 2040, has also formally joined the UN-backed campaign.
And in order to enlist more companies and orgnisations to the 'Race to Net Zero', the organisers said they will now work to "define the most effective pathways" to slash carbon emissions in a range of key sectors.
In a statement issued ahead of today's launch event, UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance and COP26 advisor Mark Carney, urged businesses to embrace the net zero transition.
"The transition to net zero is creating the greatest commercial opportunity of our time," he said. "Net zero targets must be underpinned by transition plans so that investors can assess which companies will seize the opportunities in the transition and which will cease to exist. The priority of the COP 26 Private Finance work is to support investors in assessing the credibility of company transition plans; measuring how their own portfolios are aligned to net zero; and disclosing the alignment of investment portfolios."
Today's campaign is the latest in a flurry of appeals from private and public sectors actors for governments to engineer a recovery from the coronavirus pandemic that delivers on global climate goals. A growing body of research - including studies from business consultancy McKinsey and reputed economists Joseph Stiglitz and Lord Nicholas Stern - have highlighted how a low carbon stimulus can spur job creation more effectively than carbon intensive programmes.
Meanwhile, just this week a breakthrough study from the University of Oxford noted that high levels of private sector ESG performance positively impacts the health of national economies.
However, the launch of the new campaign comes just a day after a new survey highlighted the extent to which the net zero transition is still yet to be embraced by the majority of firms.
Business in the Community published the latest edition of its Responsible Business Tracker, which found that while achieving net zero emissions comes second only to health and wellbeing on the priority list for the 94 companies polled, only 29 per cent of participating companies set science-based targets, 41 per cent govern the issue at the highest level of the organisation, and just under half set objectives, targets, and evaluate the effectiveness of their carbon reduction strategy. Moreover, only six per cent of respondents saw the health of nature as a highly material issue for their business.
"The potential legacy we leave by not tackling the climate breakdown is terrifying," said Gudrun Cartwright, environment director at Business in the Community. "The same is true for the health of nature, but it is more difficult for most businesses to see the direct links between their operations and the ecosystems they depend on. Achieving net zero carbon emissions as quickly as possible should be an important guiding star for businesses to aim at. Rethinking how businesses use resources and rebuilding the health of nature's ability to both absorb carbon and build resilience to climate risks, are both key components of an effective net zero carbon strategy."
On September 30th BusinessGreen will host the world's first Net Zero Festival - a three day virtual summit committed to celebrating and advancing the net zero transition.
In support of the Race to Zero campaign we are offering one VIP pass for the digital event to any business or organisation that has a net zero target in place.
To apply for your VIP pass please send a link to your net zero pledge to [email protected] by Tuesday 9th June.
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