The UK is set to become the first major country to set a net zero emissions target into law - a move described as “ending the UK’s contribution to global warming entirely” in just 30 years.
Announcing the new legislation, which was laid before Parliament on 12 June, Prime Minister Theresa May called it “an ambitious target” but “crucial” for protecting the planet for future generations.
Some smaller nations already have similar laws in place and other major economies are expected to follow suit, but the UK is likely to be the first major country to make the commitment.
Business ‘ready to play its part’
With the UK already off track to hit its exiting climate targets, achieving net zero will require a huge shift in activity across the economy. Nevertheless, the move has widespread support from the private sector.
In the week leading up to the announcement, a group of CEOs from 128 of the UK’s leading businesses - covering finance, utilities, transport, consumer goods, engineering, construction, property and other areas - had signed a letter urging Theresa May to put the law in place.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) also signed the letter on behalf of its 190,000 members. Once the legislation was announced, CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said: “Business stands squarely behind the government’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. This legislation is the right response to the global climate crisis, and firms are ready to play their part in combating it.
Scale of the challenge
A recent report published by the government’s climate change advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, revealed the scale of the challenge.
Examples of what reaching net zero looks like includes: generating four times as much clean electricity as today; making £5-10 billion worth of resource efficiency improvements in UK industry every year; banning new petrol and diesel vehicles within the next 15 years at the very latest; phasing out gas heating systems; completely changing societal norms on food and flying; and covering up to a fifth of agricultural land with trees.
According to another report from the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), many businesses will need to make “fundamental change to their business models and operating practices,” and the government may need to “purposefully disrupt” specific sectors.
To support UK business through the transition, Business in the Community (BITC) has launched a private sector-led ‘Net Zero Carbon Taskforce’ to “inspire and mobilise businesses to reverse the impacts of the climate crisis.”
The taskforce’s initial focus will be on developing a toolkit for business action in operations and across value chains, and creating a roadmap for the business contribution to achieving net-zero.
SMEs in Greater Manchester can access fully-funded support from GC Business Growth Hub.
Posted under Climate Change and What it Means to You and Environmental Regulations and Legislation on 26 June 2019