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Big business urges EU to adopt target to cut emissions 'at least 90 percent' by 2040

Salesforce, Coca Cola, and Unilever are among the firms advocating for a stretching climate target to give businesses confidence to invest in the net-zero transition.

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A group of leading global corporates has urged the European Union to establish a stretching climate target for 2040, arguing the bloc should set a new goal to cut net greenhouse emissions by at least 90 percent on 1990 levels.

Coca Cola, Unilever, Salesforce, Velux and Signify are among the firms to have backed the call, which has been organized by the Corporate Leaders Group Europe and is contained in a new position paper setting out the rationale for a revised climate target for the bloc.

The European Commission is mandated by the European Climate Law to set a formal climate target for 2040 by the first quarter of 2024, and recently closed a three-month public consultation on the final form for the new target.

While some organizations have advocated for a 90 to 95 percent emissions reduction target, others have called for the bloc to fix its sights on a less stretching goal of between 70 and 80 percent.

Today, the CLG said a target of at least 90 percent reduction of emissions was a level of ambition aligned with the Paris Agreement's goal to limit global warming to 1.5C and was based on assessments conducted by the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change and modeling by analysts Climact and Agora Energiewende.

The goal should also stipulate that no more than 8 to 10 percent of the emissions reductions required to meet the EU's 2040 climate goal should be supplied by carbon removals, according to the report.

The CLG said that by committing to a more ambitious 2040 target, the EU could send a clear signal to business that climate action will remain at the heart of its political agenda for the next two decades, providing firms with the confidence to invest in the transition.

Ursula Woodburn, director of Corporate Leaders Group Europe, said targeting an "at least 90 percent" reduction in emissions by 2040 was "necessary, desirable and feasible."

"It will send a strong signal to speed up both decarbonization efforts and the clean energy transition — and to increase the EU's industrial competitiveness, including through the successful implementation of the Fit for 55 package by 2030," she said.

In response to the call, a spokesperson for the EU Commission said it was "premature to speculate on possible emission reduction levels for 2040."

"The Commission values all input which comes from the public and stakeholders and it will contribute to the Commission's impact assessment [of the EU's 2040 climate target] which is due to be published early next year," the spokesperson said. "The Commission's Impact Assessment will draw on all relevant scientific input and will cover a broad range of impacts. For example, it will look further into feasibility, cost-effectiveness and the investment needs associated with pathways to climate neutrality. It will also include assessments of the implications for competitiveness, for SMEs and for a just and socially fair transition."

The spokesperson said it was "already clear" that climate would "remain at the core of the EU's policy agenda for the coming decades."

"We have already set into law our 2030 emissions reduction targets and our commitment to become the first climate neutral continent by 2050," they said. "The EU Climate Law also commits the EU to fixing a 2040 target which will chart the path forward towards the longer-term target. Beyond this, we are also supporting industry by creating the necessary conditions and providing support for investments in Europe's clean tech future, for example through the Net Zero Industry Act which was proposed earlier this year. As President von der Leyen has always said, the EU Green Deal is Europe's growth strategy."

The position paper published by CLG sets out 10 principles that could help the EU reach an "at least 90 percent" emissions reduction target, including policies and investments to accelerate electrification, energy efficiency and phase out fossil fuels; ensure the costs and benefits of the transition are equitably distributed; embed the principle of competitive sustainability into the EU's industrial strategy and climate policies; and deploy all available levers to rapidly reduce emissions from the building sector.

It also calls for regulators to harness circular economy and eco-design solutions to harness environmental and climate benefits; maximize the synergies between climate and nature objectives; and adopt a realistic and evidence-based approach to deploying carbon removal projects.

Harry Verhaar, chair of CLG Europe and vice president of global public and government affairs at Signify, said the target to cut emissions by 90 percent by 2040 was "critical" to ensure the EU achieves its goal of achieving "climate neutrality" by 2050. "Businesses are already taking action to translate climate objectives into concrete action on the ground and are willing to accelerate their efforts," he said. "At Signify this means we have already achieved carbon neutrality by 2020 and are on track to go beyond carbon neutrality and double our positive impact on the environment and society by 2025."

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