More than 70 European companies, including many of the world’s largest firms, have today signed up to a declaration calling on the EU to set a new target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions 30 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020.
The signatories together employ more than 3.4 million people and boast an annual turnover of €1tr. They include a raft of household names, such as BT, BSkyB, Carrefour, the Coca-Cola Company, Google, IKEA, M&S, Philips, Sony Europe, Unilever and Vodafone.
Significantly, a number of energy companies and clean tech firms have also endorsed the declaration, including Better Place, Centrica, Dong Energy, First Solar, National Grid, Scottish and Southern Energy, and Vestas.
The declaration argues that increasing the EU’s current target of reducing emissions 20 per cent by 2020 will help spur innovation and investment across the bloc, while creating jobs and enhancing European energy security.
The intervention comes ahead of a meeting of the EU Environment Council and a European Parliament vote next week on moving beyond the existing 20 per cent target.
A group of countries, including the UK, France and Germany, are lobbying hard for the more ambitious 30 per cent target, arguing that, as a result of falling emissions during the recession, the new goal can be met at relatively little cost.
However, the proposals are being fiercely opposed by many eastern and southern European states, while carbon intensive industries are similarly lobbying for the 20 per cent target to be retained.
Some diplomats have proposed a compromise 25 per cent emission reduction target for 2020, but it remains unlikely that agreement will be reached on a more ambitious goal without a clear indication from the on-going UN climate change negotiations that other industrialised and developing countries are willing to sign up to similarly robust targets.
However, the backing of such a high-profile group of businesses for more ambitious targets will increase pressure on the EU to consider more demanding emissions goals post 2020.
“Politicians across Europe must listen to this clear message from forward-thinking businesses, which know that a stronger policy framework will be in their interest because of the investments and opportunities it can unlock,” said Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF-UK. “Sticking with the current EU 20 per cent target would simply perpetuate a cycle of low ambition that will inevitably lead to dangerous climate change. The 30 per cent target is a no-regrets position for Europe’s economy, and it is logical to move to it now.”
His comments were echoed by Sandrine Dixson-Declève, EU director of the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, which helped orchestrate the declaration alongside WWF and the Climate Group.
“This declaration underscores what real business leaders have been saying repeatedly, that low-carbon growth stimulated by greater climate policy ambition from the EU is not only feasible, but is a driver of economic recovery and the best foundation for future prosperity in Europe,” she said. “Business leaders working with us are convinced that more ambitious short- and medium-term targets are essential to help drive up the carbon price and incentivise the low-carbon investments needed to both reach the EU’s climate goals and exit the recession.”
The declaration was welcomed by Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne. “More and more businesses now realise that Europe’s future prosperity lies in a low carbon economy,” he said. “There is a danger that the current lack of resolve from the EU will put a brake on the growth aspirations of some of Europe’s biggest firms.
“Backing from major corporations such as Ikea, Coca Cola and M&S will put greater pressure on the EU to raise its emissions reduction target to 30 per cent and to establish clear incentives for low carbon growth as soon as possible.”
Originally published on Business Green.