Seven months ago, negotiators at the UN Glasgow Climate Summit celebrated a series of new commitments to lower GHG emissions and build resilience to the impacts of climate change.
So, what progress has been made since then, and what steps can organisations take tolead the way in reducing their carbon emissions and embracing net zero?
First, let’s recap what was promised at COP26.
Six months on, the war in Ukraine, soaring inflation, the global energy crisis, and ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have derailed some of these commitments. As things stand:
Global climate action conferences, such as COP26 and the G7 Summit, come and go in a flash and fury of publicity, heated debate and grand promises. Once the dust has settled and corporate and government delegations are no longer the focus of media discussions, other issues arise, people’s attention moves on.
Global discussions between leaders and experts influencing businesses to adopt net zero and sustainability strategies prove, however, the positive impact that leaders and policy makers can have on businesses. If governments fail to act, corporations will need to lead the way. This is not as unlikely as it may sound. Businesses are increasingly being driven by a trio of forces outstripping the power of any legislation, past or future. Those forces are their stakeholders: employees, investors and customers. These groups, rather than government regulations, will power the shift to sustainable business models. Whether due to enlightened self-interest or market forces, business leaders are being moved to respond.
It helps if net zero is seen as more than the fight against climate change. For example, in a world of rising and volatile energy prices, it can mean energy security through PPAs and greater onsite renewables, and a lower energy footprint through energy efficiency. It can mean boosting innovation, as solutions and new ways of doing business are developed, or greater engagement as staff join in initiatives. Ultimately, it means the sustainability of any business, not just the planet.
Organisations that pursue a carbon reduction strategy make themselves more desirable to stakeholders and future employees, helping them stand out from competitors as leaders in climate action.
The UK has not pushed for enough change to be able to deliver on its target to become net zero by 2050. This, at least, was the belief of The Independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) in April 2022, the body set up to monitor progress on reducing emissions and achieving carbon budgets and targets. By June 2022, in a damning progress report to parliament, the CCC stated that the government is failing to enact the policies needed to reach the UK’s net zero targets. With the UK retaining COP presidency until COP27 in November 2022, however, there is hope the government will step up to deliver more over the coming months.
The UK has not pushed for enough change to be able to deliver on its target to become net zero by 2050. This, at least, was the belief of The Independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) in April 2022, the body set up to monitor progress on reducing emissions and achieving carbon budgets and targets. By June 2022, in a damning progress report to parliament, the CCC stated that the government is failing to enact the policies needed to reach the UK’s net zero targets. With the UK retaining COP presidency until COP27 in November 2022, however, there is hope the government will step up to deliver more over the coming months. In April the Government announced its plans for the energy sector, focusing on the ways it can secure energy within the UK to reduce the reliance on oil and gas from international sources. This involved the formation of a new public body – the Future System Operator (FSO) – to oversee the energy network, boost security and resilience for UK energy supplies and support the transition to net zero emissions.
Also in April, the Government published the British Energy Security Strategy, detailing how the UK will increase the use of wind, new nuclear, solar and hydrogen to help the country move to a more secure and renewable energy. The aim of this strategy is to see 95% of electricity coming from low carbon sources by 2030. However, the plan lacks emphasis on energy efficiency, and controversially also includes the production of domestic oil and gas from new licensing for North Sea drilling projects, expected to launch in the autumn. The CCC has stated that the plans do not focus on what is needed now, and that the UK will not see a positive impact from these strategies for the next five years.
As reported by The Guardian in May 2022, analysis has found that several major UK fossil fuel projects have been approved since COP26 concluded, while about 50 schemes are thought to be in the pipeline between now and 2025. The head of the International Energy Agency said last year no new fossil fuel developments should go ahead if net zero global targets are to be reached by 2050. It is estimated that nearly half of existing fossil fuel sites would need to be shut down early if global heating is to stay within the 1.5C global heating limit set by governments internationally.