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FTSE 100 bosses have been urged to sign up to net zero goals as part of a final push this autumn by the government to gather corporate support for global targets ahead of the COP26 climate conference in Scotland.
Andrew Griffith, the UK’s net zero business champion, has written to chief executives across the FTSE 100 telling them there was a “real imperative” for companies to set net zero targets.
In the letter seen by the Financial Times, Griffith said he wanted to be clear that the “race to zero” campaign — the UN push to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest — was the “kitemark that the UK government is fully behind for the largest companies”.
Griffith told the FT that large businesses “have a responsibility to show leadership on climate” and that they should all be aiming to set race to zero targets.
He added that “with around 70 days until the UK-hosted COP26 climate summit, I’ve written to CEOs with a clear message that now is the time to get on board”.
The UK became the first major economy in 2019 to enshrine in law a net zero emissions target by 2050, although the run-up to COP26 has not been without issues given concerns among some senior Conservative MPs about the cost to poorer households of moving to green energy.
The government has also come under criticism for repeated delays in the publication of key decarbonisation strategies including plans for the housing sector and a review by the Treasury about where the costs of net zero will fall.
Almost half of the FTSE 100 has signed up to the race to zero campaign so far, and more than half have signed up by value. AstraZeneca, BT, Vodafone, J Sainsbury and Unilever are among the 47 companies to have made net zero plans.
This is an increase from the 30 companies that had signed up in March this year, but the majority of the UK’s largest companies have yet to act despite a year-long campaign to ask for their involvement.
Griffith, an MP and former No 10 adviser, was made the UK’s net zero business champion in November to encourage industry to make credible plans for net zero by 2050 or earlier.
In the letter, the former Sky executive said it was also possible to make and announce the pledge now even if it took a further one or two years to finalise detailed plans.
Griffith said he was encouraging business to embrace the economic opportunity offered by the net zero transition, and warned that this was a time “when we cannot take it for granted that business is seen as a force for good by everyone in society”.
Additional reporting by Camilla Hodgson in London
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