Mandating net zero

Legislation is needed to make big businesses plan for net zero by 2050, finds WWF

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 8 October 2021

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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New research published today (08 October) shows that if the government is to keep its climate promises, it must legislate big businesses so that they publish detailed plans on how they will help keep global temperature rise to below 1.5°C.   

WWF examined public net-zero commitments by FTSE 100 companies and found that the UK’s largest companies’ plans to curb their carbon emissions fall far short of what is needed to tackle climate change.

While some UK companies and financial institutions are stepping up to the challenge to reduce their climate emissions, too many are failing.

Four out of five FTSE 100 companies do not yet have a detailed plan about how they will reduce their climate emissions and over a quarter have not set a target of reaching net-zero climate emissions by 2050. 

Voluntary measures aren’t enough

With our world on the brink of irreversible harm if global temperature rises above 1.5°C, the UK’s FTSE 100 companies are, on aggregate (by SBTI estimates) currently on a 3°C pathway. If left unmanaged, this would be catastrophic for people and wildlife.   

To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, global emissions need to be cut by around 50% by 2030 and big businesses will play a crucial part of this.

Yet there is currently no government regulation that requires companies to set net-zero targets and no requirement that they publish plans on how to achieve this. 

‘It is six years since the Paris Climate Agreement set a target to keep global temperature rise to below 1.5°C and most of the UK’s largest businesses aren’t doing nearly enough to curb their emissions to make our planet safe for future generations.  

‘We cannot rely on voluntary measures to tackle the greatest crisis of our time.  Before the UK hosts the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, the government must tell us that they will make businesses publish transition plans on how they will cut their climate emissions.’

TANYA STEELE
WWF’s chief executive

Committing to net zero

WWF’s research shows that reliance on a voluntary approach by the private sector is not enough.

To date, 29% of the UK’s biggest businesses still haven’t made any commitment to reach net zero and only 19% of the country’s biggest companies have the detailed plans needed that set out how they will meet their net-zero targets by 2050. 

With less than nine years to meet its promise to halve emissions, the government must swiftly bring in a new law for all large UK firms to adopt and implement net-zero transition plans that align with science-based targets to keep global temperature rise to below 1.5°C and fulfil the UK’s own net-zero promises.  

When businesses make net-zero pledges, it is important that companies’ action plans are independently verified by a credible science-based target organisation to ensure they are robust and adequately ambitious.

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