Leading the way to COP26 – the UK’s journey to net zero
On Monday 17th May the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) ran a panel event on COP26 (the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties) and the UK’s journey to net zero.
The event was chaired by Claire Walker, the BCC Co-Executive Director, with the following panellists:
- Will Gardiner, CEO, Drax Group
- Chris Stark, Chief Executive, The Climate Change Committee
- James Heath, Chief Executive, The National Infrastructure Commission
- Eliot Whittington, Director of Policy, The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group
- Claire Perry O'Neill, Managing Director, Climate & Energy, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
There were a number of central themes across the speakers:
- We need to Invest in different energy systems and the natural world
- Carbon needs to be put back into the ground
- We all need to reduce first, before removing, and reduction is difficult
With regards to electricity, we need to significantly increase generation to cope with the increasing electrification of areas such as transportation and make it zero carbon.
- We need a clear plan from Government and await their net zero strategy
- Decarbonisation is consistent with economic growth and is linked with economic recovery
- The UK has a good story to tell in terms of how well we are doing - offshore wind production, for example, is good and the cost is coming down
- The Government needs to have a regulatory framework and subsidy scheme for carbon capture, such as the proposed pipeline to capture and transport CO2 into the North Sea
- Businesses, especially larger corporations, have a very important role in getting to the 2050 net zero target
- Almost all the FTSE 100 companies have a plan to measure and reduce emissions, but far fewer do outside the FTSE 100
- More needs to be done to help at the smaller business level
- Setting targets and interim steps/milestones is key for organisations to progress
Claire Perry O'Neill described this year’s COP, to be held this November in Glasgow, as a “tsunami of ambition”. It will be a proof point to bring ambition and commitment, with the anticipation that governments will be pledging to global warming of no more than 2%, or lower.
COP will also be about place-based and nature-based solutions, supporting the natural world across all countries to be “nature positive”.
The UK Government’s position is likely to follow Boris Johnson’s 2020 ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution.
In August 2020, the BCC ran survey on the net zero economy, which showed that:
- 38% of respondents said they fully understand the term net zero and the implications for their business while 21% did not
- One third of firms do not consider net zero to be a priority and more than two-thirds have either never heard of COP or know the name only
- However, the appetite to become net zero is very high, with 88% saying they are actively taking at least one measure to reduce carbon emissions
There really does seem to be a broad and strong will to achieve net zero within governments around the world, and the business sector, which will be a fundamental part of driving this, is increasingly on board. Now is the time for companies outside the FTSE 100 to get on board, and not just those within a corporate’s supply chain.
We look forward to seeing what comes out of COP26.