Coalition of business leaders challenges 2C climate change target
Theguardian.com, 7 December 2015, UK.
The corporate leaders, members and supporters of the B Team, a coalition of chief executives for climate action, said governments should aim for a stronger target than the agreed goal of 2C and aim for actions that would eventually limit warming to 1.5C. Branson, a long-time supporter of action on climate change, said companies were looking to the talks to provide a clear signal and would be able to get to carbon neutrality by mid-century, we just need governments to set some rules he said. “Carbon neutral by 2050, we will have 35 years to get there. The 1.5C goal is seen as a matter of life and death for some of the world’s poorest countries, and has been a key issue in climate negotiations. Vulnerable countries argue that the 2C goal backed by the US, China and Europe would seal the fate of hundreds of millions of people in low-lying countries like Bangladesh and the Philippines.
On Monday, a Paris meeting aimed at reaching a global deal to fight climate change kicks up to a gear, with government ministers taking charge of negotiations.
As ministers arrived in Paris, the chief executives of companies such as Virgin, Marks & Spencer, L’Oreal and Unilever said it was critical for governments to reach for stronger targets that would free the world’s economy from carbon emissions by 2050 and avoid dangerous warming.
The corporate leaders, members and supporters of the B Team, a coalition of chief executives for climate action, said governments should aim for a stronger target than the agreed goal of 2C and aim for actions that would eventually limit warming to 1.5C. The support for a 1.5C goal puts some of the world’s most powerful corporate leaders in sync with small islands and poor countries that are most vulnerable to climate change as well as campaign groups which have been pressing rich countries to up their ambition.
“We believe that net zero by 2050 would at least get us to 2 degrees, leaving the door open for further reduction to 1.5, which should be something we should be looking at in the future,” said Jochen Zeitz, the former chief executive of Puma and founder with Richard Branson of the B Team. “We believe the business case for net zero in 2050 is irrefutable,” Zeitz told a seminar on Sunday.
Branson, a long-time supporter of action on climate change, said companies were looking to the talks to provide a clear signal and would be able to get to carbon neutrality by mid-century. “We just need governments to set some rules,” he said. “Carbon neutral by 2050, we will have 35 years to get there. It’s actually just not that big a deal, but we need clear long-term goals set by governments this week. Give us that goal and we will make it happen.
The 1.5C goal is seen as a matter of life and death for some of the world’s poorest countries, and has been a key issue in climate negotiations. Vulnerable countries argue that the 2C goal backed by the US, China and Europe would seal the fate of hundreds of millions of people in low-lying countries like Bangladesh and the Philippines.
The business leaders said they were framing their demand on governments in terms of emissions reductions, with a goal of net zero by 2050, because those were targets companies could set for themselves. Privately, however, some of the leaders said they were concerned about the politics of coming out explicitly for 1.5C now, instead of 2C. But they acknowledged that was indeed their goal. “Yes, we are for 1.5 degrees,” Mo Ibrahim, the founder of Celtel International, one of Africa’s leading mobile phone companies, told the seminar.
The companies which signed on to the B Team argue that their support for a strong emissions reductions goal helps to keep pressure on governments to reach for a strong deal. The corporate leaders suggested their support for a strong agreement provides an important counterweight to the fossil fuel industry, especially in the US, which has blocked action on climate change. But they said they believed that the economy had reached a tipping point in terms of moving towards greener sources of energy.
The French hosts of the climate talks on Sunday said they had recruited a team of ministers and officials from 14 countries to help put together a deal. The leaders immediately convened a series of small working groups that will meet to home in on elements of a deal. Negotiators said they felt reasonably optimistic for a strong outcome at the Paris meeting. In contrast to previous climate meetings which deadlocked early, officials managed to pare down a draft text on schedule, leaving a full week for ministers to reach agreement.
Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and now head of the Foundation for Climate Justice, said she believed the draft released on Saturday had kept prospects alive for a 1.5C goal. “We have a commitment to stay below 2 degrees and keep open the prospect of 1.5C,” Robinson said. “Keeping that window of 1.5, which I think will happen in this agreement, is extremely important.”
The prospects for achieving that goal are extremely daunting. Scientists estimate the world has already warmed by 1C since the industrial revolution. More than 100 of the 196 countries at the Paris meeting want a 1.5C goal. But until recently the 1.5C goal was dismissed as a pipe dream by rich countries and the bigger developing countries.
Now, however, there is greater recognition of 1.5C as a threshold for dangerous climate change. With current warming of 1C, low-lying states in Africa and Asia and island countries were already exposed to extreme storms and weather phenomena such as this year’s strong El Nino. Last week, a group of countries most at risk broke away from the big developing country bloc and signed a declaration urging a 1.5C target.