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 challenger to become more sustainable, they said.

Held in San Francisco, the summit has brought together leaders and people from around the world to “Take Ambition to the Next Level”, as well as celebrate the extraordinary achievements of states, regions, cities, companies, investors and citizens with respect to climate action.

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.

Prompted by the Paris Agreement and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a faster pace, governments across the world are reviewing their initial ambitions, and looking at what is required to deliver on the goal of ‘net zero’ emissions.

“It’s not about pushing the boulder up a hill anymore, the boulder is over the crest and now the team is tasked with steering it downhill right away.”

Maria Letizia Mariani, Market Group Leader Europe at Signify

The Corporate Leaders Group is calling on governments to set net zero goals in line with the Paris Agreement, and is working to lead its business peers to work with governments on what a net zero economy could look like.

“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,” said Eliot Whittington, Director of the Corporate Leaders Group.

“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 inspired new and creative solutions.

“In 2015, Salesforce set the goal of reaching reach zero-net emissions by 2050,” said Patrick Flynn, Vice-President of Sustainability at San Francisco-based cloud computing company Salesforce.

“We went through a very rigorous process to make sure we were driving toward our goals in the right way and achieved our target in 2017. It’s not about pushing the boulder up a hill anymore, the boulder is over the crest and now the team is tasked with steering it downhill right away.”

Maria Letizia Mariani, Market Group Leader Europe at 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.”

Green world

Hydrogen: a clear target?

Moving towards a Hydrogen (H2) Economy is often regarded as one of the central pillars of a low carbon future. H2 is positioned as a key solution of the worldwide energy transition in the march towards a 1.5°C world as outlined at COP21. One initiative setting clear targets to meet these climate goals is the Hydrogen Council.

Hydrogen Council holds event today

“All industries are being faced with the need to decarbonise their sectors…It is possible to make, out of H2, the energy vector of the future.”

Those were the words spoken by Pierre-Etienne Franc, Co-secretary of the Hydrogen Council and Vice-President of Hydrogen Energy at Air Liquide, back in April at gasworld’s Europe Conference 2018 in Amsterdam.

Day one of gasworld’s Europe Conference 2018 closes

“Every technology has pros and cons – if you don’t move into the debate with conviction, if we don’t do it, nobody will do it for us. We are - all of us - the market shapers, and if we do it now it will work.”

“The Hydrogen Council was created as an initiative to show the world that amongst the wave of next generation technologies, there is going to be a key energy player and that player is H2.”

Conviction is certainly something that the Hydrogen Council can boast; in just 18 months the first global initiative of its kind has quadrupled in size. It now brings together an impressive group of 53 leading companies, accounting for 3.8 million jobs and €1.8 trillion in revenue from across 11 different countries.

Hydrogen Council quadruples size in 18 months

Call to governments

At the Global Climate Action Summit this week, the Prince of Wale’s Corporate Leaders Group, in a position statement, called for governments to adopt strategies that:

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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.