They have written to the prime minister, with the letter highlighting the economic benefits of an early transition and the risks of failing to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C.
It has been signed by Leendert den Hollander, Coca-Cola Vice President, Unilever CEO Paul Polman, Scottish Power CEO Keith Anderson, Thames Water Utilities CEO Steve Roberson, Peter Simpson, CEO of Anglian Water, Nigel Stansfield, President for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Interface and Joao Pola, CEO of Signify UK Ireland.
They say advanced economies like the UK should aim for net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest to fulfil the promises made in the Paris climate agreement – and hope the government will “carefully study” the evidence in the recent landmark UN report and set its ambition accordingly.
The letter states: “As business leaders, we understand that stretching goals bring challenges but we are also aware that the transition to a climate-safe world with net zero emissions is necessary, that the work to achieve this has already begun and that human ingenuity can achieve wonders.
“When the government sets clear long-term goals, businesses can work to deliver higher ambition and ensure we are planning for long-term success. By making a smooth and managed transition over time, the risks of disruption to business operations can be mitigated. The UK can help set the direction of travel for businesses, giving clarity to planning and decreasing exposure to climate risks, whilst allowing us to grasp the tremendous economic opportunities that this transition presents.”
It adds by choosing to set climate targets in line with the latest science, the UK will show commitment to a “safe, prosperous future for all” as well as unlock innovation and collaboration that can bring down the costs of action.
It says the nation can also retain its role as a leader on climate change and be a hub for the industries of the future.