UN’s Race to Zero Draws Climate Pledges From a Fifth of FTSE 100

Almost a fifth of FTSE 100 companies have signed up to a United Nations pledge to eliminate their carbon emissions by 2050, as U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson strives to inject momentum into domestic efforts to fight climate change.

Nineteen members of the U.K.’s benchmark stock index, with a market capitalization of about 715 billion pounds ($987 billion), have committed to the UN’s Race to Zero campaign, Andrew Griffith, the premier’s climate envoy to business, said in an interview. They include AstraZeneca Plc, Vodafone Group Plc and Rolls Royce Holdings Plc, he said.

With the U.K. set to host this year’s major round of UN climate talks, known as COP26, in Glasgow in November, Johnson aims to put Britain at the forefront of global efforts to tackle global warming. In December, he committed to cutting Britain’s emissions 68% by 2030 compared with 1990, the deepest cuts in the Group of 20 nations. At the same time, he’s pushing corporations to embrace the push to eliminate emissions by 2050.

“The prime minister was very keen that we create a real sense of domestic momentum so that COP 26 is not just about world leaders flying in and having their photos taken in front of flags; it’s about real climate action” Griffith, a Conservative Party lawmaker and former chief operating officer at Sky Plc, said in an interview.

“If we don’t succeed in getting business to take serious action about climate, then we’re not going to achieve our overall goals,” he said.

Griffith was named the U.K.’s “Net Zero Business Champion” in November, with a mission to push businesses toward adopting targets for carbon neutrality.

Ultimate Goal

“My ultimate goal is the whole of the U.K. business community from the largest to the smallest,” Griffith said.

Once smaller companies are included, the U.K. is already outstripping the likes of Germany and France in terms of involvement in the Race to Zero, he said. His message to companies is to look at their sources of energy, their buildings and their product sourcing.

Commitments companies must make when signing up to the UN program include net zero emissions by 2050 as well as interim targets.

They must take “immediate action” and can only use offsets that have “robust standards,” according to the UN. They’re part of a wider goal to contain the global temperature rise since the industrial revolution to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Other companies signing up to the pledge include GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Diageo Plc, Burberry Group, BT Group and Reckitt Benckiser Group, Griffith said.

“Very few of them actually need a lot of convincing,” he said. “Businesses are seeing how fast their own shareholders are moving.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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