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In a time of global uncertainty, now is the time to invest in a 1.5C future

Aitona, Spain
U.N. Global Compact

With the coronavirus (COVID-19), we are facing a global pandemic that is devastating people and their livelihoods, disrupting supply chains, profoundly deepening inequalities and undoing progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

At the same time, we continue to face a global climate emergency with irreversible impacts for people and all the natural systems that sustain us. In the face of these interconnected crises, we cannot afford to tackle one or the other. Human health depends on planetary health. We can — and must — tackle both.

Right now, trillions of dollars are being infused into the recovery of some of the world’s largest economies and to support developing economies in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. There never has been a time like today for coming together to jumpstart a worldwide transformation towards a more inclusive and sustainable net-zero economy.

This is the background for the largest United Nations-backed CEO-led advocacy effort, launched just a few days ago, urging world leaders to build net-zero climate targets into COVID-19 recovery plans and stimulus packages. Behind the statement are more than 160 CEOs of the world’s leading businesses, representing more than $2.4 trillion in market capitalization, led by the U.N. Global Compact and its partners in the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi).

The leadership of these CEOs is unwavering: The COVID-19 crisis has not deterred them from continuing to set ambitious corporate emission reduction targets through SBTi and the Business Ambition for 1.5 Degrees C campaign. They remain committed to doing their part to achieve a resilient, zero-carbon economy. Now they are calling on governments and policymakers to match their ambitions in their recovery efforts aligned with reaching net-zero emissions well before 2050, to reduce vulnerability to future shocks and disasters, and build community resilience.

The CEOs are issuing the statement now because they are concerned that governments — in the current economic environment — could feel pressured to lessen their ambitions in this critical year for climate action.

By showing their ongoing support for an ambitious climate agenda, these companies are demonstrating that it is indeed possible and profitable to adopt sustainable, emission-reducing plans even during times of crisis. By advocating that green growth remains the best growth strategy, they hope to bolster the confidence of governments and policymakers, ensuring that economic recovery and the submission of enhanced national climate plans under the Paris Agreement go hand-in-hand.

There never has been a time like today for coming together to jumpstart a worldwide transformation towards a more inclusive and sustainable net-zero economy.

What they are asking of governments is that they set a clear and ambitious agenda for economic recovery funds that can give businesses the confidence and clarity they need to take ambitious climate action: to divest from fossil fuels and innovate in low-carbon, resilient solutions that can generate green jobs and sustainable growth, protect nature and people, and deliver on the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement. 

The statement is most of all an invitation for governments and businesses to unite to set the world on a 1.5 degrees Celsius trajectory, leading to healthier and safer people and a healthier and safer planet. 

In this way, they are also mobilizing behind U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, who — in his Earth Day address — proposed six climate actions to shape the recovery and the work ahead:

First, the huge amounts of money to be spent on recovery from the coronavirus must deliver new jobs and businesses through a clean, green transition.

Second, where taxpayers’ money is used to rescue businesses, it must be tied to achieving green jobs and sustainable growth.

Third, fiscal firepower must drive a shift from the grey to green economy, empowering societies and people to be more resilient.

Fourth, public funds should be used to invest in the future, not the past, and flow to sustainable sectors and projects that help the environment and the climate.  Fossil fuel subsidies must end, and polluters must start paying for their pollution.

Fifth, climate risks and opportunities must be incorporated into the financial system as well as all aspects of public policy-making and infrastructure

Sixth, all need to work together as an international community.

Equally as important is that the global investor community is also fully behind this message, recognizing that a green transformation makes sound economic sense: The U.N.-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, an international group of institutional investors representing more than $4 trillion in assets under management, recently issued a statement reaffirming its commitment to work with signatories to transition its investment portfolios to net-zero emissions by 2050. 

As we move into the next phase of the COVID-19 response, now is the time to get it right and make a decisive leap towards a 1.5 degrees C future — because it is our only future. I encourage governments and businesses to unite with us to recover better.

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