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Big business backs bold UK low carbon policy

80 of the biggest companies in the UK have signed an open later to the Prime Minister urging him to support an ambitious push towards a low carbon economy and a strong global climate deal.

80 of the biggest companies in the UK have signed an open later to the Prime Minister urging him to support an ambitious push towards a low carbon economy and a strong global climate deal.

The signatories of the letter, published in the Financial Times on 10 June, cover a range of sectors and include the likes of BT, Coca Cola, IKEA, Marks and Spencer, Mars, Tesco and Unliever.

The letter reads: “We are some of the businesses that will help create the UK’s future economy. We want this economy to be energy efficient and low carbon.”

More specifically, it calls for the Prime Minister to:

  • Seek a strong deal at the UN climate summit in Paris in December which limits global temperature rises to 2°C
  • Set an ambitious fifth carbon budget for the period 2028-2032 to drive forward UK emissions reductions
  • Establish a long-term framework for investment in the low carbon economy.

Carbon budgets

The call to support a strong fifth carbon budget is part of the overarching Climate Change Act, which was enacted to reduce UK emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 against 1990 levels. 

The fourth carbon budget, running from 2023 to 2027, was agreed by the Government in July 2014 despite opposition from Chancellor George Osborne.

The Government’s Committee on Climate Change is expected to publish its advice on the fifth carbon budget in December this year. 

‘Green growth’

David Nussbaum, chief executive at WWF-UK, commented: “From construction and energy to retail, the best British enterprises know that green growth is the future. They take on board that it’s no longer credible to base a sustainable economy on fossil fuels, so the government should put us on track for a low carbon world.

“The Prime Minister should send a clear message that the only way forward is a green economy, and support forward-looking firms that want to build a clean economy.”

Business leadership

A new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), published on 11 June, emphasises the “crucial role” of business in achieving global climate targets.

The report argues that ambitious action from the world’s largest corporations could save 630 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) in 2020, with the 1,000 biggest emitters currently responsible for 20 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. 

Case study

One of the high-profile signatories of the open letter to the Prime Minister, Marks and Spencer, is already reaping the rewards of ambitious action.

The company reports “strong progress” on its well-regarded Plan A sustainability strategy in its latest annual report and highlights that the plan has generated £160 million in savings and sales in the last year.

More specifically, nearly half of the 100 commitments it has set itself for 2020 were met in 2014, including improving energy efficiency in stores, offices and distribution centres by 36 per cent through measures such as LED lighting and solar power, and cutting delivery packaging by 60 per cent.

To read the full report, click here