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Net-zero goal is central to low carbon economy: Track 0 report

Date
10 February 2015
Net-zero goal is central to low carbon economy: Track 0 report

LONDON: Leading companies have issued a joint-call to push governments setting a close net-zero emissions target.

The science is clear. To avoid the “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” of climate change, we must peak global emissions by 2020, reaching zero GHG emissions by the end of the century and zero CO2 emissions by around 2050.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also states that to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” the global surface of the planet should not increase more than 2 Celsius degrees more than the pre-industrial levels. In addition, we should also develop and implement negative-emission technologies, such as carbon capture and storage.

That is the message from Track 0 report The Business Case for Adopting the Long-Term Goal for Net Zero Emissions. The synthesis report clearly shows how if we don’t act, the cost implications for businesses will be unbearable. It supports an open letter signed by leading members of The B Team, such as Sir Richard Branson, CEO, Virgin Group, and Paul Polman, chief executive, Unilever. The leaders asked Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, to call governments to sustain this bold target.  

“The net-zero call represents a great opportunity to increase ambition,” adds Ben Ferrari, Director of Partnerships, The Climate Group, “and the numbers demonstrate the scale of the change that businesses can help to drive. This year in particular we must both recognize the risk posed by climate change and embrace the compelling business case for bold action, as demonstrated by economic leaders at Climate Week NYC last September. Low carbon investments bring strong returns. And companies such as those involved in our RE100 campaign are increasingly looking to innovative strategies like ‘net-zero’ in their journey to become 100% renewable.

“At climate talks in Paris this year, we expect governments to land a climate deal that will give the right signal to investors and businesses. But Paris is not the end of the road. As this net-zero initiative shows, we need long-term, clear policy perspective at all levels of leadership.

2014 was a promising year for climate progress, hinting at a positive outcome for Paris. At Climate Week NYC, leading companies pledged to switch to 100% renewable power as part of our RE100 initiative. A month later, Europe implemented binding targets for its pollutant emissions. Then the year closed with the US-China deal, where the world’s two biggest polluters committed to peak their emissions by 2030. 2015 too, opened with a series of positive records for the clean economy, followed by an important US-India commitment to incentivize clean energy growth.

LOW CARBON ECONOMY

These actions reflect the growing consensus that to sustain global economic growth, investment must benefit both the environment and business. As the New Climate Economy report indicates, 50-90% of the actions required to cut emissions in most countries will also drive economic growth. Commenting on last year’s report, former President of Mexico Felipe Calderón, Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate affirmed: “This report refutes the idea that we must choose between fighting climate change or growing the world’s economy. That is a false dilemma.”

Renewables have also been proven to offer the best financial returns. The global low carbon and environmental goods and services market is currently valued at US$4.5 trillion a year, and is expected to grow by 25% to US$5.7 trillion by 2016.

The net-zero initiative follows this pattern, demonstrating how the low carbon economy offers savings for society and businesses, especially in the energy sector. For example, while fossil-fueled power is heavily reliant on subsides, renewable energy – especially solar and wind – is already cost-competitive in large parts of the world, and can give businesses the stability they need for their long-term emission reduction and business goals. Moreover, investing now will avoid the unescapable social, economic and health costs that a fuel-power based world brings with it.

However, every long-term goal needs a clear framework. If policymakers do not act to make the 2050 emissions reduction target concrete, investors and shareholders will miss the opportunity given from the low carbon energy mix.

“To keep a good chance of staying below 2 degrees Celsius, and at manageable costs, our emissions should drop by 40 to 70% globally between 2010 and 2050, falling to zero or below by 2100,” remarked Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “We have that opportunity, and the choice is in our hands.”

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by Ilario D'Amato

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