Leaders of The B Team – a collection of global business leaders who have come together to advance the well-being of people and the planet – have called upon world leaders to commit to a global goal of net-zero greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions by 2050… and urged business leaders to match this ambition by committing to bold long-term targets.

The B Team’s ambition builds on recent talks at the COP20 climate summit in Lima, and is grounded on an assessment of the latest scientific research, business risks and the economic costs of failing to keep within the 2°C threshold.

Government leaders are set to hold climate talks at COP21 in Paris this December to negotiate a global agreement, with advance negotiations beginning in Geneva next week. The December meeting will be a defining point in human history, with high hopes of an ambitious agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol and limit mean temperature increases to 2°C.

The B Team Leaders believe that by committing to net-zero greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, governments will demonstrate they are unequivocally setting the world on a clear, low-carbon trajectory. Businesses will respond by embedding bold climate action into their strategies – unleashing innovation, driving investment in clean energy, scaling-up low carbons solutions, creating jobs and supporting economic growth.

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment concluded that achieving net-zero GHG emissions by 2100 will provide only a 66% chance of limiting global warming to 2°C. The B Team view a 1-in-3 chance of failure as an unreasonable risk scenario carrying significant cost implications, strengthening the business case for achieving net-zero GHG emissions by 2050.

The B Team Leaders are calling for action in the following areas to achieve this:
1. For governments to commit to a global goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and to embed this in the agreement to be signed at COP21 in Paris.
2. For businesses to match this ambition by committing to long-term targets and driving low-carbon solutions to scale – thereby enabling the world to achieve the net-zero 2050 target.
3. For both businesses and governments to adopt meaningful and effective carbon pricing.
4. For governments to end all fossil fuel subsidies, and to shift this capital to help scale affordable renewable energy solutions to enable a wider economic transformation.
5. For both businesses and governments to ensure the benefits of responses to climate change flow to vulnerable and impoverished communities that suffer disproportionately from climate change and are least equipped to cope with its impacts.

Businesses are already incurring the costs of climate change, with increasing supply-chain disruptions from extreme-weather events, rising sea levels and ocean acidification, falling crop yields and increasing desertification. At the same time, the world’s poorest and most vulnerable – who are disproportionately affected and least equipped to cope – are being hit the hardest.

As business leaders, they view the transition to a net-zero GHG emissions economy as an historic opportunity that, if managed responsibly, fairly and collaboratively, can bring economic benefits to countries at all levels of income, including new jobs, cleaner air, better health, lower poverty and greater energy security.

This will require businesses to join forces with governments to help drive the transition, by setting clear national targets and developing enabling policies to shift capital toward carbon-free alternatives, to help drive sustainable, inclusive prosperity for all.

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever and B Team Leader, encouraged other leaders to follow suit:“A target of net-zero emissions by 2050 is not only desirable but necessary. This is the time to redouble our efforts and further accelerate progress to decarbonize our economy. This is not going to be easy, but the earlier we act, the greater the economic opportunities will be.”

Mary Robinson, UN Special Envoy on Climate Change and President of the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice, who is an honorary B Team Leader, explained: “A transition to net-zero will succeed only if it is done fairly. The necessary technology for sustainable development must be an available and affordable option for all countries. Without this, developing countries will have no alternative to dirty energy for their development, locking themselves into fossil fuel infrastructure for the long term, and we will fail to secure a safe climate future. But, if we succeed, we will do much more than stabilize the climate – we can unleash sustainable energy for all, put an end to poverty, improve global health and create a more prosperous world for our children, and grandchildren.”

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group and Co-Chair of The B Team noted: “Taking bold action on climate change simply makes good business sense. It’s also the right thing to do for people and the planet. Setting a net-zero GHG emissions target by 2050 will drive innovation, grow jobs, build prosperity and secure a better world for what will soon be 9 billion people. Why would we wait any longer to do that? It’s time for all of us to join forces and drive the transition to a thriving net-zero GHG emissions economy by 2050.”

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