Friday 13th December 2019
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Leaders urged to set ambitious targets to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C

A broad coalition of business, civil society and UN leaders on Thursday, June 13, 2019 issued a call to action for private companies to make their critical and necessary contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit the worst impacts of climate change.

María Fernanda Espinosa
María Fernanda Espinosa, President of the UN General Assembly

In the lead-up to the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit to be held on September 23 in New York, Chief Executive Officers are being challenged to set even more ambitious targets for their companies in line with the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which made a compelling case for limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The call-to-action comes in the form of an open letter addressed to business leaders and signed by Lise Kingo and more than 20 leaders including Her Excellency María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the UN General Assembly; Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth; and SDG Advocate Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever.

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“We need concrete, realistic plans by 2020 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over the next decade, and to net zero by 2050,” said Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba, UN Special Envoy for the 2019 Climate Action Summit and one of the co-signatories to the letter. “Climate change requires an unprecedented effort from all sectors of society and business leadership demonstrated by setting science-based targets at 1.5°C will send strong market signals as we look to identify the scalable and replicable solutions needed to secure a world where no one is left behind.”

“We have less than 11 years to fundamentally change our economies or we will face catastrophic consequences,” said Lise Kingo, CEO & Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, one of the member organisations of the Science Based Targets initiative. “For the first time, we are seeing business and climate leaders coalesce around a common call-to-action, sending a powerful signal that science-based target setting presents a significant opportunity for businesses to step up when it comes to tackling climate change and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

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Other signatories to the letter – which is published on the UN Global Compact website – include John Denton, Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce; Paul Simpson, CEO of CDP; Andrew Steer, CEO of World Resources Institute; Manuel Pulgar Vidal, Climate & Energy Practice Leader at WWF; Nigel Topping, CEO of We Mean Business; Anand Mahindra, Chairman of Mahindra Group; and Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of The B Team, amongst others.

The economic opportunity presented by taking bold climate action is significant, with evidence suggesting that those companies aligned with a 1.5°C trajectory will be best-placed to thrive as the global economy undergoes a just transition to a net-zero future by 2050.
 
The call-to-action asks companies to set verifiable science-based targets through the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), which independently assesses corporate emissions reduction targets against scientific best practice and to date has verified the targets of more than 200 companies. In April 2019, the SBTi released new target validation resources to enable companies to set targets consistent with keeping warming to 1.5°C.

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Ambitious business leaders who commit their companies to a 1.5°C-aligned target will be recognized at the UN Global Compact’s Private Sector Forum in New York on September 23 as part of the Climate Action Summit.

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