skip to content

Corporate Leaders Groups

Business leadership for a climate neutral economy

1 December 2020 - In the run up to the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement on climate change more than 80 businesses, including Tesco, BT, ScottishPower, Sky, EDF and Coca-Cola, are calling on Boris Johnson to announce a substantial 2030 emissions reduction commitment.

The call is supported by new modelling which indicates that the Ten Point Plan for a green recovery, recently announced by the UK Government, is not sufficient to deliver net zero by 2050.

As hosts of the postponed United Nations COP26 climate summit the UK is being urged to lead the way for other nations to deliver similarly ambitious interim emission targets to ensure global temperature rises stay well below 2C and that efforts are pursued to limit it to 1.5°C.

In a letter to the UK Prime Minister, 81 businesses highlighted the urgent need for the Government to set out an ambitious emissions target for 2030, known as a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), that is in line with the Paris Agreement, the UK’s own net zero by 2050 target and advice from the Climate Change Committee, ahead of a special global climate summit on December 12.

The letter states: “As we stand a year away from the start of the COP26 Climate Summit, and five years on from the Paris Agreement, we believe there is an opportunity for the UK to demonstrate the right level of ambition to guide a green recovery and secure international momentum.

“As the UK calls on other governments to set their own increased NDCs, it has a unique opportunity to catalyse action globally and lead the way for other countries to reflect this level of ambition. We hope you will announce an ambitious UK NDC before the end of the year…”

Eliot Whittington, Director, The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG) - coordinating organisation for the letter to the Prime Minister – said:

“A substantial and realistic 2030 emissions target for the UK not only corrects our course to reach net zero by 2050, and shows the right level of ambition expected from other nations for COP26, it also fits with the actions needed to deliver a larger economy and more jobs.

“The Prime Minister’s recent Ten Point Plan has set out an unprecedented set of measures to credibly drive change across the economy towards decarbonisation, building new industries and restoring our economy. To secure the UK’s leadership position on climate change the government can build on these actions to set us on the right path to achieving climate neutrality in the next 30 years.”

A new briefing from the CLG, supported by modelling from Cambridge Econometrics, indicates the Ten Point Plan is predicted to grow GDP by up to an additional 1.8 per cent (£43billion) by 2030, while achieving a reduction in emissions of nearly 60 per cent on 1990 levels. This would rise to nearly 70 per cent by 2035. This trajectory puts the UK on track to meet its existing 2030 target but it is not in line with its net zero target, and the UK will need to go further and faster to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The modelling suggests an ambitious new UK NDC 2030 reduction target of at least 70 per cent based on 1990 levels, supported by a strong Long-Term Strategy, could accelerate this.

The letter from business leaders to the Prime Minister outlines its support for an emissions pledge that is:

  • Aligned with business targets: We represent businesses many of whom have set their own net zero targets, including a number who have signed the Business Ambition for 1.5 pledge, and investors that are aligning their portfolios to the goals of the Paris Agreement. UK businesses and investors would value a clear signal from the UK Government that ambition for the economy aligns with their own aims. 
  • Setting out clear ambitions for resilience: The NDC should be supported by solid plans and ambitions to ensure the UK is well prepared for the impacts of climate change.
  • Embedded in UK policy: The NDC should include a comprehensive, just and inclusive delivery plan supported by all parts of government. We welcome your decision to publish a comprehensive Net Zero Strategy in the lead up to COP26. We stand ready to work with you on the development and delivery of this strategy, including policies that will deliver near-term emission reduction in multiple sectors. 
  • Supportive of the UK building back better: An ambitious NDC can support the UK’s green recovery efforts, helping deliver significant job creation and growth opportunities. Clear policy can encourage investment in the technologies, such as carbon capture and storage and hydrogen, and resource efficient business models that are essential for a competitive, zero emissions UK economy.

Jason Tarry, CEO, UK & Republic of Ireland, Tesco said:

“Our supply chain and long-term business sustainability depend on the health of the natural environment. Our customers and colleagues expect Tesco to play its part in caring for the planet, including meeting our net zero climate ambitions. We support efforts to set an ambitious NDC, because having a clear pathway of action is key to Britain leading the fight against climate change.”

Keith Anderson, Chief Executive, ScottishPower said:

“At ScottishPower we have the knowledge, tools and passion to help drive forward the race to zero. But if we want to release the full benefits of this transition and drive the uptake of new technology, support behaviour change and move at the pace climate science demands, then our ambition must be matched by an equally ambitious UK NDC target for 2030.

“Setting an ambitious target of 70% by 2030 would be a clear signal to investors that the UK is ready to build back greener and that it’s happening now.  This level of ambition would not only inject real leadership in the build up to COP26, but also reflect the high levels of public concern on climate change, something that has only grown stronger over the course of this challenging year.”

Sarah Bentley, CEO, Thames Water said:

“At Thames Water we are committed to reducing our operational carbon to Net Zero by 2030 and to going beyond this by 2040.  We have been making good progress and realise to reach Net Zero we will need to extend and deepen our collaboration with partners, especially in our supply chain.  Setting an ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution will help to stimulate low carbon innovation, solutions and actions across the economy that are needed to deliver Net Zero as quickly as possible.”

Colin Matthews, Non-Executive Chairman, EDF Energy said: 

“The energy sector can support decarbonisation while delivering the jobs the country needs, but we need a national plan. Hinkley Point C will provide low carbon electricity to millions of homes for decades and has already created thousands of jobs. An ambitious UK NDC, part of a long-term strategy for reducing emissions, would deliver new investment into renewable and nuclear energy projects, including Sizewell C, enabling the UK to achieve Net Zero by 2050.” 

Stephen Moorhouse, Vice President and General Manager, Great Britain, Coca-Cola European Partners said:

“At Coca-Cola European Partners in GB we have reduced our carbon impact by more than a third over the last decade but we know much more is needed. We are one of many organisations who have signed the Business Ambition for 1.5 pledge as we understand the importance of businesses collaborating with clear and ambitious targets. We support a bold NDC from the UK government as a crucial step to accelerate the wider transition to net zero.”

Michael Lewis, CEO, E.ON UK said:

“E.ON supports the call on the UK Government to set out an ambitious NDC, building on the Prime Minister's 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, and for it to be consistent with the Climate Change Committee's advice for the 6th carbon budget.  The quickest and most effective way to deliver this remains solving the challenges of decarbonising heat and transport in homes, businesses and across entire communities.”

Nicola Lovett, CEO, ENGIE said: 

“Climate change remains the biggest challenge of our time. Setting an ambitious 2030 NDC in line with the UK’s net zero target would not only reinforce the Government’s determination to deliver on climate change, but also serve as a further catalyst for green economic growth. More importantly, ahead of COP26 it would also set a tone that inspires other nations on their journey to net zero.” 

Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact and Sustainability Officer, BT said:

“BT has long recognised the importance of setting ambitious carbon reduction targets. We were one of the first companies in the world to set a 1.5°C aligned science-based target - to reduce the carbon emissions intensity of our business by 87% by 2030. Beyond that we’ve pledged to become a net zero carbon emissions business by 2045. We’re urging Governments from around the world to set ambitious NDCs for 2030, supported by solid plans to help build back better.”

Significantly the letter was signed by a number of progressive SMEs whose voices are vital to press for the acceleration of Government measures that can provide policy certainty that will lead to action and investment from this group.

The letter to the Prime Minister was initiated by business groups, including The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, the Aldersgate Group, Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, UK Green Building Council, The B Team, We Mean Business and the UK Business Council for Sustainable Development.


Read the letter and accompanying briefing here.