Branson calls for carbon-free emissions by 2050

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin business empire, is calling on world governments to adopt a zero greenhouse gas emissions policy by 2050.

Branson, and other world business leaders, say the goal is doable.

The G8 group of nations has pledged to cut emissions by 80 percent by 2050, but Branson and others are calling for more.

Branson, long a vocal advocate of action on climate change, said that setting such a goal would galvanize businesses into reducing their reliance on fossil fuels and cutting carbon dioxide. “Taking bold action on climate change simply makes good business sense,” he said. “It’s also the right thing to do for people and the planet. Setting a net-zero GHG emissions target by 2050 will drive innovation, grow jobs, build prosperity and secure a better world for what will soon be 9 billion people. Why would we wait any longer to do that?”

The US, China and the EU have already set out their targets on emissions beyond 2020, when current commitments made at the climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009 run out. Other nations are expected to follow suit by submitting their post-2020 national emissions targets to the UN from now to April, after which they will be evaluated to check that they are fair and add up to a global cut in emissions that will put the world on a path to avoiding the worst effects of climate change.

The call to governments to pledge a zero-net-emissions target for 2050 was made by a group of international business leaders that includes Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group manufacturing conglomerate; Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever; Mo Ibrahim, the telecommunications billionaire; Guilherme Leal, the Brazilian billionaire; Francois-Henri Pinault, chairman of the luxury goods group Kering; Arianna Huffington, the media entrepreneur; and a handful of others.

Polman called on other business leaders to join in. “A target of net-zero emissions by 2050 is not only desirable but necessary. This is the time to redouble our efforts and further accelerate progress to decarbonize our economy. This is not going to be easy, but the earlier we act, the greater the economic opportunities will be.”

“A transition to net-zero emissions will succeed only if it is done fairly. The necessary technology for sustainable development must be an available and affordable option for all countries. Without this, developing countries will have no alternative to dirty energy for their development, locking themselves into fossil fuel infrastructure for the long term, and we will fail to secure a safe climate future,” said Mary Robinson, the UN’s special envoy on climate change.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration proposed tough new standards to improve fuel efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide pollution from trucks and vans, the latest move by President Barack Obama to address global warming.

The new rules are designed to slash heat-trapping carbon emissions by 24 percent by 2027 while reducing oil consumption by up to 1.8 billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the rule.

Medium and heavy-duty vehicles account for about 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and oil use in the U.S. transportation sector, polluting the air and contributing to climate change. The trucks and vans comprise only 5 percent of vehicles on the road.

The proposal comes amid a flurry of recent actions by Obama on the environment, including a new federal rule regulating small streams and wetlands and a separate rule to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from airplanes.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the new rules would help the environment and the economy, as trucks use less fuel and shipping costs go down. Foxx called the rules “good news all around.”

Gina McCarthy, chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, said the plan would deliver “big time” on Obama’s call to cut carbon pollution.

“With emission reductions weighing in at 1 billion tons, this proposal will save consumers, businesses and truck owners money,” McCarthy said. At the same time, the rules will “spur technology innovation and job-growth, while protecting Americans’ health and our environment over the long haul,” she said.

Under the new rule, a best-in-class, long-haul truck carrying 68,000 pounds of cargo is expected to get at least 10 miles per gallon, up from a range of 5 to 7 miles per gallon today, the EPA said. Vehicle owners would recoup costs associated with the rule within two years because of reduced fuel consumption, officials said.

The American Trucking Association said industry generally supports the new rules, but remains concerned that it may result in use of technologies on vehicles before they can be fully tested. Trucks carry goods from produce to timber and oil, as well as packages from major companies such as Amazon, on highways across the country.