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Corporate Leaders Groups

Business leadership for a climate neutral economy

28 November 2018 – Today the European Commission set out its long term vision for a climate neutral and prosperous Europe, aiming to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and contribute to the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Following an extensive public consultation which included input from business representatives, research groups and civil society, the EU commission has today set out its long term vision on how to achieve a climate neutral, prosperous economy.

An EU-wide strategy for carbon neutrality can prompt innovation and investment and in so doing offer benefits in the short and medium term, on the way to safeguarding the future of the planet. Leading this transformation demonstrates that the EU’s potential for new, high quality jobs, healthier cities and lifestyle opportunities for its citizens is greater than ever.

Reflecting on the paper, Eliot Whittington, Director of the Corporate Leaders Group said: “The EU has become the first major economic region to respond to the warnings from the IPCC on global warming, showing it is prepared to take the lead on climate action. Business leaders are increasingly aware that achieving net zero carbon emissions before 2050 is our only viable option to keep global temperature rises in check.”

He continued, “It is crucial the vision presented today is supported with tools to make it real. We need not targets but clear deadlines, not ambitions but actions, and after looking at the options, we need to recognise that the best choice for Europe is to start a commitment to net zero right now.”

The Commission recognises the need for the EU to step up its efforts. With this in mind, the vision is aimed at achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 through a cost-efficient, just transition. It outlines a number of scenarios, with the first five analysing different technological pathways towards 80% emission cuts by 2050, a sixth which combines them and achieves  90% emission cuts by 2050 (and full decarbonisation by 2070) and two scenarios exploring the different interactions to deliver net zero emissions by 2050.

The Commission also sets out the strategic building blocks that could be the foundation for action: energy efficiency, expansion in renewables, clean mobility, industrial competitiveness and a circular economy, smart infrastructure, the bioeconomy and carbon capture and storage. It outlines that the EU will likely need to increase investment by in the energy system in the range of 175 to 290 billion euros a year, but that this will also lead to considerable benefits for the economy and for citizens – saving around 200 billion euros on health costs linked to air pollution, for example.  

Following the recently published IPCC special report, the need to limit warming to below 1.5°C as soon as possible before 2050 is more urgent than ever before. With an increasing number of countries and businesses setting net zero targets, momentum towards a zero emissions future has continued to gain pace.

The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group has repeatedly called for European policy makers to increase their ambition on climate action, asking them to revise their 2030 and 2050 targets in line with net-zero by 2050 at the latest. This call from the business community was also reflected in a statement from We Mean Business, calling for a long term strategy that would build a zero emissions and climate-resilient future for the EU.

Karl Henrik Sundström, CEO of Stora Enso said: “A net zero vision by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement is the most viable way to collectively combat global warming. Ambitious long-term targets encourage investments and innovations that future proof our assets and attract customers. We believe that everything that is made from fossil-based materials today can be made from a tree tomorrow.”

Nigel Stansfield, President, Interface EMEA  said “Interface has spent the last 24 years focusing on eliminating our own environmental impact and creating a climate fit for life. We have been striving for zero and now we believe we can drive beyond this. As we embark on our new Climate Take Back™ mission, we have a more ambitious goal to reverse global warming. Through radical decarbonization, creating products that store carbon and building factories to function as forests, we are learning to run our business mirroring nature, ensuring we are working towards becoming regenerative. We recognise we cannot do this alone so collaboration with our customers, the EU government, our supply chain and partners will help us to achieve our goal.”  

Harry Verhaar, Head of Global Public & Government Affairs, Signify said “A net zero carbon goal is a triple win for Europe. The creation of a carbon neutral society by midcentury will result in social benefits for Europe’s citizens, will improve the quality of our living environment and will provide economic benefits, the latter either to the national or local economy, or for our household and businesses. Removing current carbon constraints is the smartest and best thing that can be done to set course to a more inclusive and fair society for all Europe’s citizens”.

Earlier this month energy and environment ministers from Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden co-signed a joint letter to EU Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete calling for “a clear direction” towards net-zero emissions.

Last month CEOs of companies like food giant Unilever, financial powerhouse Allianz SE and power providers Engie and EDF penned a joint letter, collated by the B Team, to EU climate chief Miguel Arias Cañete, urging him to make sure the European Commission’s 2050 strategy includes a net-zero emissions option.

Most recently, CLG members wrote to the UK Government on the 10-year anniversary of the UK Climate Change Act, calling for a clear deadline by which to achieve net zero carbon emissions.


Learn more about the Corporate Leaders Group's work towards building a net zero future.