Yesterday 27 important European companies spoke in favour of ambitious cuts for Europe’s carbon emissions. Jodie Thorpe explains how this is exciting for the climate change campaign.
It’s rare for me to get excited about a “letter to the editor”, but yesterday brought a very welcome surprise. The heads of 27 of Europe’s biggest and most important companies – names like L’Oreal, Nestle, Asda, Vodafone, Centrica, Lloyds, Tesco, Philips and BT – made a strong and clear public statement that Europe needs tougher targets when it comes to cutting our carbon emissions. This was in support of a similar statement made by Chris Huhne, the UK’s new environment minister, along with his French and German counterparts late last week.
These two statements represent a small but potentially really important breakthrough to help put the world back on the track towards a global deal on climate change. If European leaders can agree to stronger targets, it will send a clear signal to developing countries that Europe is serious about tackling climate change. This will help to rebuild the trust between countries that was badly damaged during Copenhagen, and to move towards the global climate deal the world needs.
For the last several months, Europe has been dithering – trying to decide whether to stick to its current offer to cut its carbon emissions by 20% by 2020, which is below what scientists tell us is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change, or to offer 30% – much closer to what’s needed. Businesses have repeatedly blocked progress. Big industry lobbies, including the UK’s big business group, the CBI, have been issuing public releases and statements, and undoubtedly using plenty of behind the scenes influence, to try to prevent this 30% commitment.
However, the fact that a group of major companies has made a clear call for Europe to be more ambitious shows that these lobby associations do not really speak for “business”, but rather for a handful of companies that are committed to maintaining “business as usual”.
Make no mistake – the 27 CEOs and Chairmen did not sign the letter because they suddenly stopped wanting to make a profit or be competitive. They signed it because they see real business opportunities around low-carbon products, services, technologies and infrastructure – and they’re afraid of losing the race to compete in the low-carbon world to countries such as China, Japan or the US. But that’s not the point. The point is that we need to make a big shift onto a low carbon pathway, which will ultimately be better for the planet, for our health and for our way of life. The sooner we can get governments, business and people pulling in this direction, the sooner we will get there.
I believe there are many more than 27 companies in Europe that see the opportunity around this vision. The question now is whether they’ll also have the courage to speak up.
More info: Oxfam and climate change