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Sixty companies from FTSE 100 commit to net-zero by 2050

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Six in 10 of the UK’s biggest listed companies have said they will eliminate their contribution to carbon emissions by the middle of the century, as negotiators meet in Glasgow to find a path to avoid catastrophic climate change.

By Thursday (4 November), 60 of the FTSE 100 – with a combined market value of over £1tn – had committed to a net-zero target as part of the United Nations Race to Zero campaign. They are part of the 5,200 companies which have joined up to the UN pledge. Nearly half of these companies are British.

“Businesses both large and small, across all sectors of the global economy, have a crucial role to play in both reducing their environmental impact and developing the green technologies that will set us on the path to net-zero,” said business and industry minister Lee Rowley.

“With over 2,500 UK companies joining the Race to Zero, including the majority of our largest firms, the UK is leading the way in showing how going green doesn’t just make sense for the planet, it makes business sense, too.”

UK net-zero business champion Andrew Griffith said: “As the world seeks bold solutions to combat climate change, we need businesses of all sizes to put the environment at the heart of their operations, making tangible climate commitments that help chart our path to net-zero emissions by 2050.

“By setting out ambitious climate targets, Britain’s leading businesses are sending a clear signal to world leaders at COP26 that now is the time to act.

“I hope it encourages other companies across the world to outline their own net-zero ambitions and grasp the economic opportunities of this global green industrial revolution.”

It has been openly acknowledged at COP26 that private enterprise will have to step up alongside governments to help finance the necessary steps to limit climate change. In his speech before world leaders, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "We cannot and will not succeed by government spending alone".

Prince Charles later emphasised this point during his own address, saying: "We need a vast military-style campaign to marshal the strength of the global private sector. With trillions at its disposal – far beyond global GDP and, with the greatest respect, beyond even the governments of the world’s leaders – it offers the only real prospect of achieving fundamental economic transition.”

Meanwhile, Tony Danker, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, will tell business leaders today (Thursday) that “this job is on us”, and that companies can deliver net-zero regardless of COP26 outcome.

Danker will suggest that companies are ready to strike out on their own to deliver a net-zero world, independent of any actions agreed – or promises that go unfulfilled – after the climate change conference in Glasgow.

“Governments are making some progress at COP26, but only serious business action can keep 1.5°C alive,” Danker is expected to say at a dinner in Glasgow.

“We cannot achieve net-zero without clean energy to power our world. Without foundational industries, from agriculture, to mining, to building, shifting to sustainable ways of working.”

Danker will add that companies that show the “greatest boldness” need to be rewarded if the world is to get to net-zero as he calls on firms to show the way: “This is a time for business leadership. We can’t do it without governments, but nor can we wait for them to reach perfect agreement. This is a moment in history where every firm needs to step up and lead.

“For some of you, I know, this is a moral obligation; a commitment to business as a force for good or to leaving a sustainable legacy to future generations.”

Danker's message will follow the revelation from former Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, that global financial firms that control 40 per cent of the world’s assets had signed up to a net-zero plan. The money they can direct should be more than enough to put the world on a path to net-zero, he said.

Experts say that companies are realising that it makes financial sense to abandon polluting ways of doing business.

“To put it bluntly, in purely commercial terms, the cost of inaction is, for the first time, higher than the cost of action,” Danker will say.

“Yet there is an emerging gap now between firms who want to be at the forefront of the net-zero transition and those who are resisting the inevitable. It’s time for firms to choose – either lead the way or be left behind.”

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