More than 600 business leaders have called on the G20 bloc of the world's biggest economies to end support for coal and halve emissions by 2030.
The call comes as the Covid-19 pandemic alerts governments to build greener and more equitable economies.
The signatories of an open letter to be published on September 30, include energy companies such as Iberdrola, Acciona and Enel, as well as blue chips such as Unilever, Netflix, Volvo Cars and Natura & Co, the parent company of Avon, Aesop and The Body Shop. UAE companies such as Majid Al Futtaim are also part of the global call to take measures to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Together, the 600 companies represent more than $2.5 trillion in revenue and more than 8.5 million employees, and are calling for mandatory climate-related financial disclosure of risks, among other steps.
“Our businesses recognise the benefits of climate action,” the signatories said in the letter, which comes a month before G20 leaders meet in Rome and the Cop26 climate talks begin. “The right policy decisions taken today can drive further investments and spur business decisions in favour of climate solutions across G20 countries.”
Cop26, which will begin on October 31 and run for two weeks, will bring together world leaders, climate experts, business leaders and thousands of delegates from around the globe to Glasgow to discuss steps to achieve a zero-carbon future by 2050.
Among the calls from the 600 business leaders in their letter to G20 was an immediate end to new coal power development and financing with plans for phasing out coal-fired power generation by 2030 for advanced economies and by 2040 for other countries.
“It’s essential that governments take confidence from this letter – the biggest and most ambitious call for policy action from business that we’ve seen – and step up their climate action plans,” said María Mendiluce, chief executive of the We Mean Business Coalition, which co-ordinated the letter.
“Ahead of Cop26, countries should renew their national plans and turn them into concrete policies as outlined in this letter. Decisive government and business action can trigger a transition of our energy system to help build a resilient, carbon-free future," she said.
The letter, which will be open for companies to sign over the coming month, also calls for scaling up electrification of transport and renewable energy across sectors, including removing barriers to corporate purchasing of 100 per cent renewable electricity to “enable companies to go quicker in their clean energy transition”.
A recent analysis by the Climate Action Tracker found that no G20 country is currently on track to contain global warming to the 1.5ºC target. G20 countries represent approximately 90 per cent of global gross domestic product and almost 80 per cent of global trade and greenhouse gas emissions.
The letter comes amid an increase in public support for more government climate action and follows a recent call for greater climate ambition from 587 investors with $46 trillion in assets under management.
“Time is running out to keep 1.5 degrees within reach,” said Alan Jope, chief executive of Unilever. “The private sector is already taking bold action as the business case for resilient, net-zero economies is crystal clear. But we can only get there if governments set ambitious climate goals.
“We urge the G20 leaders to go all-in on the goal of halving global emissions by 2030, with targets, policies and public investment commensurate with the scale of that challenge. In doing so, they can set the world on course for a new era of sustainable, inclusive and resilient growth, at a time when it has never been more necessary," Mr Jope said.
The letter also calls for public finance to align around a 1.5ºC trajectory by ensuring that existing public climate finance commitments are met. Alongside this are calls for climate-related financial disclosure of risks, opportunities and effects to be made mandatory for corporations.
“We appeal to G20 leaders to seize this pivotal moment to take action that ensures we can collectively halve global emissions by 2030," said Motoi Oyama, chairman and chief executive of Japanese sporting goods company Asics.
"Business has the potential to bring about rapid change, but we need clear and consistent policies to drive the business investments and decisions that will build stronger, just, and more resilient economies, both for our own business activities across the globe, as well as those of our business partners in other G20 countries. We believe that for people to achieve a sound mind in a sound body, we need a sound Earth.”