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Leading the way: businesses’ role in achieving net-zero

(Credit: Adobe Stock)

3 min read

Former Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Energy and Climate Change, Lord Teverson, considers the increasingly important role of business in achieving the United Kingdom’s net-zero goals

Let’s start with a reminder. In comparison to sorting, say, the biodiversity crisis or international migration, getting to net-zero by 2050 is, to be frank, dead straightforward.

To start with, we only need a single metric and a single target – the percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We express it as a CO2 equivalent. And what we can measure, we can manage. And it’s easy to measure.

Next, we know what causes those emissions. It’s obvious, and top of the list are fossil fuels. And yes, we have issues with the release of carbon from other man-made and natural activities such as land use, but right now they are the detail.

But most brilliant of all, we have the knowledge and technology already invented to solve the problem. Take your pick: renewable energy, synthetic fuels, circular economy, carbon capture, energy efficiency, reforestation, nuclear power, stopping methane leakage – that’s for starters. Agreed, some of them are still a little expensive, but the track record shows that rolling out in scale brings those prices tumbling down.

“Already we’ve seen how markets and technology deliver low-carbon products that are price competitive – electric vehicles, heat pumps, solar panels”

So, rather than all the doom and gloom that, let’s be honest, can be quite a demotivator, shouldn’t we be optimistic and feel supercharged for the next chapter in saving the planet? After all, it seems we are about to reach peak carbon, and the world’s biggest emitter, China, has become the world’s biggest investor in renewables.

But. Yes, but. Progress is now what’s needed; we all know that. We have the answers, but not the scale of action that’s going to get us there. Whatever the result of the election − I’m writing this halfway through the campaign − it is pretty certain that we will still have a target of net-zero by 2050 for the life of the next Parliament. But do we have the will to apply the fix?

Just maybe it’s governments that are the problem. Maybe rather than playing the catalyst to make stuff happen, they are the blockage. Policies change, a nuanced ministerial speech can shift market perceptions, and investment can flow elsewhere across the globe following a hesitation. We’ve seen it happen.

Back to the positive. All too often business is seen as the bad boy of our carbon addiction. And yes, the fossil fuel sector is still culpable. But much of global business gets climate change. It knows the science, and it knows it’s going to happen. Their plans and investments have to take climate reality into account.

Already we’ve seen how markets and technology deliver low-carbon products that are price competitive – electric vehicles, heat pumps and solar panels.

So, should government just, well, butt out? Not at all. Government is the foundation and the glue to delivering a net-zero nation. Providing a consistent, no wobbles, policy framework and pathway is vital. Championing early-stage research. Laying down the regulations that drive energy efficiencies. The message to our new government? Give us that consistent policy framework, an optimism that we can succeed, and don’t waver. Yes, we can deliver.

This article was originally published in The Path To Net Zero supplement circulated alongside The House magazine. To find out more visit The Path To Net Zero hub.

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