Content Coms Asks: What might Zero Emissions mean for UK business?
At the start of May, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) set out how the UK can reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The Guardian reported that the Committee says the transformation is necessary, affordable and desirable.
It argues setting the legally binding target, which has wide political support, will be the easy bit. But the scale of transformation needed to meet the target is enormous.
What next then for UK business – as our environmental strategy appears set to hike up another level?
The report itself
CCC’s analysis, available here, is complex. Running to 277 pages, it recommends a new emissions target for the UK: net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050. Targets for Scotland and Wales vary slightly.
More practically, it calls for clear, stable and well-designed policies to reduce emissions further across the economy without delay, arguing current policy is insufficient for even existing targets.
There are many elements within the paper which would impact hugely on both conventional and low carbon business if legislated.
The report mentions policy development has begun for low-carbon electricity (which must quadruple its supply by 2050), efficient buildings and low-carbon heating (needed throughout UK building stock), electric vehicles, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and diversion of biodegradable waste from landfill.
On transport, it says 2040 is too late for the phase-out of petrol and diesel cars and vans, and current plans for delivering this are too vague.
Most crucially, it makes no bones: industry must be largely decarbonised. Heavy goods vehicles must also switch to low-carbon fuel sources, emissions from international aviation and shipping cannot be ignored, and a fifth of our agricultural land must shift to alternative uses that support emissions reduction: afforestation, biomass production and peatland restoration.
It’s nothing less than a wholesale shake up of how business as normal will operate in coming years, if the recommendations make it into law.
And someone has done the numbers. CCC now expects that a net-zero GHG target can be met at an annual resource cost of up to 1-2% of GDP to 2050, the same cost as the previous expectation for an 80% reduction from 1990. This is due to cost reductions as mass deployment of low carbon tech has rolled out.
This is what low carbon advocates have always promised, the tech becomes cheaper while fossil costs rise; the answer, a transformed low carbon economy.
The Content Coms reaction
“This report shines a light on Content Coms’ long held belief; the need to unequivocally decarbonise UK industry and business,” comments Joanna Watchman, CEO and Founder, Content Coms.
“The environmental arguments for so doing are well understood. Today, I want to highlight that green business is profitable, sustainable business. Those businesses who react with positivity and action on these themes will find telling competitive advantage.
“There is little time or space left for the fossil-based industry we inherited from the Industrial Revolution. Change is here, now.”
What should I take from all this?
CCC’s report says the UK should legislate as soon as possible to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The target can be legislated as a 100% reduction in greenhouse gases (GHGs) from 1990 and should cover all sectors of the economy, including international aviation and shipping.
That’s as clear a signal as business can ask for. Will the government listen? Remember, CCC is the government’s official advisor in this capacity. Ignoring its advice would be challenging in Westminster.
‘All these changes would provide new types of jobs for people,’ writes The Guardian. ‘The UK is a world leader in offshore wind and technologies such as CCS could also become important industries for the UK.’
“We started the [first] industrial revolution and we have an opportunity of leading the new industrial revolution, based on a sustainable economy,” said Lord Deben, the chair of the CCC. “We will make money as a nation if we do it properly.”
Content Coms is one of the UK’s leading B2B communications consultancies specialising in the energy, environment and technology sectors. Keep up-to-date with the latest industry news and analysis here.