Coca-Cola, Unilever, GSK, and other Corporate Leaders Group (CLG) Europe members are calling upon the European Union to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 90% by 2040 via ten principles, including the phasing out of fossil fuels and an evidence-based approach to carbon removals.
To avoid passing irreversible tipping points, a new position paper – convened by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership – asserts that the EU should set a net reduction target of at least 90%, compared to levels in 1990; no more than 8-10% of this should come from carbon removals, it says.
Designed to align with the Paris Agreement’s ambition to limit global warming to 1.5°C degrees, it is said to require ‘sufficient progress’ in the EU by 2030 by meeting the current 55% greenhouse gas reduction goal. The EU is not currently on track to achieve this target, the report warns – calling for ‘urgent action’ to be taken in scaling up existing low-carbon technologies.
Decarbonising building stock, developing low-carbon materials, and switching to low-carbon energy are highlighted in the report as next steps.
Coca-Cola, Unilever, Salesforce, Velux, Signify, and other CLG Europe members have expressed their support for the target, with Coca-Cola, Salesforce, and GSK aiming to reach net-zero emissions by 2040 as per the Climate Pledge.
“CLG Europe has been a longstanding proponent of setting ambitious climate targets to encourage businesses to decarbonise in a way that benefits the economy and society,” said Ursula Woodburn, director of Corporate Leaders Group Europe. “The target we are now calling for of ‘at least 90%’ emissions reductions by 2040 is necessary, desirable and feasible.
“It will send a strong signal to speed up both decarbonisation efforts and the clean energy transition - and to increase the EU’s industrial competitiveness, including through the successful implementation of the Fit for 55 package by 2030.”
Tim Christophersen, vice president of Climate Action at Salesforce, continued: “In setting a 2040 target, the EU can provide much needed leadership and give clear market and policy signals for climate action. We welcome a target that reflects the speed, urgency and benefits of near-term action, for people, the climate and nature.”
“To be ready for 2050, we need a 2040 EU emission reduction target of at least 90%,” stated Lars Petersson, CEO of Velux Group. “A significant part of this reduction needs to come from the building sector, which currently accounts for over a third of GHG emissions.
“At VELUX, by 2030, we aim to achieve a 100% reduction of operational emissions (scope 1 and 2) and reduce our carbon emissions from our value chain by 50% (scope 3). To get there, we collaborate closely with our whole value chain to create low carbon, energy efficient and healthy buildings.”
Harry Verhaar, chair of CLG Europe and VP Global Public & Government Affairs at Signify, added: “A robust emissions reductions target of at least 90% emissions reductions by 2040 is critical to ensure that the EU sets the right course to arrive at its destination of climate neutrality by 2050. Businesses are already taking action to translate climate objectives into concrete action on the ground and are willing to accelerate their efforts.
“At Signify this means we have already achieved carbon neutrality by 2020 and are on track to go beyond carbon neutrality and double our positive impact on the environment and society by 2025.”
The ten principles set to help the EU reach the 2040 target are as follows:
1. Accelerate electrification, energy efficiency and phase out fossil fuels
2. Ensure that the costs and benefits of the transition are equitably distributed
3. Embed the principle of competitive sustainability into the EU’s industrial strategy and climate policies
4. Deploy all available levers to rapidly reduce emissions from the buildings sector
5. Harness circular economy and eco-design solutions for environmental and climate benefits
6. Harness the synergies between climate and nature objectives
7. Adopt a realistic and evidence-based approach to carbon removals
8. Significantly increase EU and national budgetary allocations for climate and nature
9. Set a post 2030 climate and energy political framework building on the successful implementation of the Fit for 55 Package
10. Be at the forefront of decarbonisation efforts globally
An ambitious 2040 target is important, the report explains, as it would signify a commitment to climate action and assure businesses operating within the EU that they can safely invest in the transition at an early stage. In turn, this would reportedly create new jobs, generate economic growth, improve health and well-being, and advance competitiveness.
Apparently, though, more investment is needed in heavy industry (especially cement), aviation, shipping, and other sectors where decarbonisation solutions are not yet available.
Since then, the Energy Transitions Commission has released a report suggesting that, with the appropriate financial investments, low-carbon steel projects could triple within the next three years; this is thought to meet industry emission reduction targets and facilitate 190 million tonnes of ‘green’ production every year by 2030.
In other sectors, however, uncertainties remain. Cepi previously warned that paradoxical legal positions regarding carbon capture and biomass in the EU’s ‘Fit for 55’ legislation could threaten existing decarbonisation efforts in the paper industry, while a new report from Bain & Co states that ‘most’ paper and packaging companies have further to go in their decarbonisation ambitions, with over 30% thought to have missed their near-term Scope 1 and 2 targets between 2019 and 2022.
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