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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership


12 September 2018 – Leading CEOs back calls from The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group for ambitious targets to inspire transition to a low-carbon economy.


Businesses are unlikely to reduce carbon emissions to zero and deliver the Paris Agreement without ambitious and unequivocal targets set by governments, according to CEOs attending the Global Climate Action Summit.

The lack of clear, long-term government signals and supporting policies that can drive the transition to a zero emissions economy has discouraged the wider private sector from taking on the challenge to become more sustainable, they said.

At a side event hosted by The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and The B Team, business leaders voluntarily working on ways to reduce emissions and policy experts highlighted the need for governments to commit to net zero emissions by or before 2050 to mobilise industry.

Eliot Whittington, Director of the Corporate Leaders Group, said:

“To have any hope of limiting temperature rises to 2°C or less, it is clear from the latest science that global emissions must now fall to net zero as early as possible in the second half of this century.”

“But to achieve this throughout the global economy, we need ambitious long-term strategies that can inform policy and business decisions, encourage the investment and creativity that will build a zero emissions resilient future, and avoid stranded assets and mis-investments.”

At the session, speakers highlighted how stretching ambitions have historically inspired new and creative solutions.

Maria Letizia Mariani, Market Group Leader Europe, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), said:

“In the 1960s, there was a strategy and an ambitious target put a man on the moon. It was something that was unbelievable at the time, and the energy and the innovation that was stimulated by that ambitious vison plus a clear target is still something that we benefit from today. The same approach can inspire the move towards new, low carbon economy but only if we aim for it with a clear target in our sights.”

In a position statement, the Corporate Leaders Group called for governments to adopt strategies that:

  1. Are consistent with the Paris Agreement’s goals and the UN Sustainable Development Goals and aim for net-zero emissions as early as possible in the second half of this century.
  2. Maximise certainty for business, investors and society as a whole, through taking a comprehensive and credible approach, which covers the whole of the economy and society.
  3. Are developed and implemented in an open and transparent way, with government working in partnership with all stakeholders including businesses, civil society, employers, investors, trade unions, sub-national, regional and local authorities.
  4. Will be regularly reviewed, in line with the Paris Agreement cycle, to ensure they are kept up to date, reflect the latest economic, scientific and technological developments, and are on track to achieve the agreed goals.

Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever and Chair of The B Team, said:

“The few things you need to do are very simple: get commitment from the top; make your targets science-based; be part of the transformation, not only of your own company by stating clear commitments and plans, but drive that into your value chain, where there is an enormous multiplier; and then last but not least, use your voice for the advocacy that needs to happen.”

Find out more about how companies are preparing for a net zero future.



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