UN Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the news but said many more companies need to follow suit in order to signal a market-wide shift
Almost 90 firms across roughly 30 industries have committed to curb their emissions output in a bid to limit the global rise in temperatures to no more than 1.5C, as per the goals set out by 2015’s Paris Agreement.
Collectively worth more than $2tn and representing about 4.2 million employees combined, they make up the We Mean Business coalition, which was launched in June with a call to action by the UN and global public and private sectors.
Members of the group tacitly commit to adjusting their operations in order to limit the amount of emissions they produce, subject to the 1.5C target as well as a bid to reach net-zero emissions by no later than 2050.
The announcement comes ahead of the UN’s 23 September Climate Summit in New York, held by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
He said in a statement: “It is encouraging to see many first-movers in the private sector align with civil society and ambitious Governments by stepping up in support of a 1.5C future.
“Now we need many more companies to join the movement, sending a clear signal that markets are shifting.”
Lise Kingo, CEO and executive director of the UN division Global Compact, added: “These bold companies are leading the way towards a positive tipping point where 1.5C-aligned corporate strategies are the new normal for businesses and their supply chains around the world.
“This is the type of transformative change we need to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals for both people and planet.”
Major energy firms also signal plans to curb emissions
Within the energy sector, specifically, several large companies have made public commitments to reducing their emissions output.
In April this year, oil and gas giant Shell announced plans to halve its net carbon footprint by 2050.
Before then, the company is aiming for a 20% reduction by 2035 compared with its 2016 level as it seeks to show investors its intentions of staying in line with the spirit and ambitions of 2015’s Paris Agreement.
“In pursuit of this goal, we support the vision of a transition towards a net-zero emissions energy system,” read the Anglo-Dutch firm’s sustainability report.
“But society faces a dual challenge – how to make the transition to a low-carbon energy future to manage the risks of climate change, while also extending the economic and social benefits of energy to everyone.
“Meeting this ambition requires changes in the way energy is produced, used, and made accessible to more people while drastically cutting emissions.
“We believe that the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are largely caused by burning fossil fuels, will transform the energy system in this century.
“This transformation will generate both challenges and opportunities for our existing and future portfolio.”
The aim of limiting the global temperature rise to no more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels was agreed at an international summit in the French capital — the Paris Agreement.
It was prompted by a landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which put forward that in order to avoid heightened risk of floods, drought, extreme heat and poverty for millions, the goal must be reached by 2030 at the latest.
Harminder Singh, director of power at data intelligence firm GlobalData, said: “Global greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 need to be approximately 25% and 55% lower than in 2017 to limit global warming to 2C and 1.5C respectively – while putting the world on a least-cost pathway.
“But global emissions show no signs of peaking yet – total annual greenhouse gas emissions actually reached a record-high in 2017, after three years of stagnation.
“While there has been steady progress in the number of countries that have peaked their emissions or have pledged to do so in the future, the 49 countries that have so far done so – and the 36% share of global emissions they represent – is not large enough to enable world’s emissions to peak in the near term.
“For the target of 1.5C to be achieved, it is important that the emissions peak by 2020 – renewable energy will need to supply between half and two-thirds of the world’s primary energy by 2050 with a corresponding reduction in fossil fuels.”