Earth to Paris: Give Us a Long-Term Goal
By Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group and Co-Founder, The B Team
It doesn’t happen too often that the founder of a multinational company and Greenpeace stand side by side arguing for the same outcome on a contentious global issue. But these are unusual times that demand unusual measures.
Kumi Naidoo and I joined forces on Monday to send an unambiguous message to world leaders: Business and civil society are united in urging that these historic Paris talks produce a long-term goal that places the world on a path to climate neutrality by 2050.
This transformation, effectively ending the fossil fuel era, will require eliminating harmful greenhouse gas emissions to near-zero by 2050 and transforming our energy systems to 100 percent renewable. With the right political signal, it can be achieved in 35 years. We see no reason why we would wait 85 years and leave millions of people in poverty.
Agreement to seek climate neutrality maximizes our chances for limiting global warming to 2.0°C, and leaves the door open to reaching 1.5°C, seen by many now as the critical threshold to protect vulnerable island communities, saving our coral reefs and marine shorelines. The agreement should be supported by a five-year review mechanism, beginning in 2020, that will help us track progress against that goal, and cultivate the possibility of more ambitious targets. It must also include commitments to sufficient financing so developing nations can adequately adapt to and mitigate against the impacts of climate change.
Business wants and needs a long-term goal. If governments set up the billions – and deliver an ambitious agreement – the private sector will unlock the trillions, helping all people to realise their right to development and enabling all countries to transition to clean, renewable energy economies on the same timescale.
We are at a tipping point. We can continue stubbornly on our current path and put millions of lives at risk. Or we can come together in common cause and light a spark for the biggest economic and social development opportunity of our time.
The business case is irrefutable. A strong agreement will increase the confidence of businesses and investors, helping to drive innovation, increase clean energy investments, expand R&D into climate-neutral technologies and spur an era of green economic growth and job creation.
After Paris, we need to continue to work together to ensure we accelerate the transformation by putting a meaningful price on carbon, ending fossil fuel subsidies and redeploying these resources to support the rapid growth of renewable energy.
But this week is the time to be courageous by setting a clear long-term goal. The world needs a powerful global climate agreement. Let’s ensure that our children and grandchildren will look back on Paris as one of those rare moments that we all stood in unity to change the course of history.