More than 130 companies, including Ikea and Volvo, ask world leaders to ‘phase out’ fossil fuels

More than 130 companies, including Volvo Cars, Ikea, Unilever, Nestlé and AstraZeneca, signed a letter calling on governments to adopt a global plan to phase out fossil fuels without carbon capture during the upcoming international climate negotiations.

“Our businesses are feeling the impacts and costs of increasing extreme weather events caused by climate change,” the letter said. “We have an important role to play in sending a clear signal about our future energy consumption, which is rapidly becoming cleaner through renewable energy sources.” It was coordinated by the We Mean Business Coalition, which advocates for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Together, the signatories represent nearly $1 trillion in global annual revenues from industries ranging from beer (Heineken) to pharmaceuticals (Bayer) and telecommunications (Vodafone Group). There are a few notable names in the technology sector: eBay and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. But other tech giants that have been quite vocal about their own climate goals – such as Apple, Google and Amazon – are missing from the list of signatories.

“Our businesses are feeling the impact and costs of increasing extreme weather events caused by climate change.”

It shows how difficult the road could be for us to reach a consensus on a global agreement to phase out fossil fuels. Companies and governments are increasingly demonstrating their efforts to combat climate change. But many are stopping short of reaching a commitment to stop using the fossil fuels that cause global warming — especially those that stand to lose sales under such a pact.

The signatories say they are “taking action and working to phase out our use of fossil fuels.” Yet they write that they “cannot make this transition safely or efficiently alone.” That is why they are asking heads of state to adopt policies that accelerate the deployment of renewable energy.

Heads of state are meeting in Dubai for a United Nations climate conference starting on November 30. A hot topic at the summit: whether countries can agree on a plan to abandon fossil fuels. For context, the Paris Climate Agreement, adopted by nearly 200 countries in 2015, commits them to limiting global warming to about 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial times. And while U.N. climate reports have shown that greenhouse gas emissions must drop to net zero by mid-century to reach that goal, the Paris Agreement makes no explicit mention of fossil fuels.

There is much controversy over such a deal, which could close loopholes in fossil fuel production

Looking ahead to 2023, UN Secretary General António Guterres has said it is time to “achieve a gradual global phase-out of existing oil and gas production, compatible with net zero global emissions by 2050.”

There is already a lot of arguing about such a deal, which could create loopholes for the continued production of fossil fuels. For example, the letter that companies signed today asks governments to “continue to phase out” fossil fuels – a provision that many environmentalists despise. Including the word in a deal means that power plants, factories and other industrial facilities can remain dependent on coal, oil or gas, as long as this is accompanied by controversial new carbon capture technologies that have yet to prove effective on a large scale .

The letter also asks rich countries to accelerate the rollout of clean energy for the power sector so they can achieve 100 percent clean electricity by 2035. The letter calls on them to provide financial support to less prosperous countries to help them transition to clean energy. And it says governments should set fees for carbon pollution, and instead “reform and repurpose” fossil fuel subsidies to support energy efficiency and renewables.

“We know that phasing out fossil fuels is the only way forward if we want to limit global warming and protect people from climate catastrophes,” Volvo Global Head of Sustainability Anders Kärrberg said today in a statement accompanying the letter.

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