CEC Logo

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)

Common themes

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.

BCC survey

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

In conclusion

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.