For business leaders tasked with guiding corporations along the path to net zero, these are challenging times. Public and indeed corporate desire for climate-benign commercial practice has never been greater, yet the sheer speed of the net zero transition and the sheer pace of policy can be overwhelming.
A good example of this complexity is visible within responses to the recent 6th Carbon Budget. The net zero targets and pledges within the Budget are very good news, and as embedded legal policy it’s a very useful marker for what is to come.
However, edie reported that anger and disappointment about the nation’s lack of progress on decarbonisation are evidenced in the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) latest report.
Published 24 June, EDIE wrote, ‘The CCC’s progress report to Parliament for the year reveals that, with current policies, the UK is only likely to deliver one-fifth of the emissions reductions needed by 2035.’
And, to deliver the emissions reductions needed to set the UK up for its long-term climate target of net zero by 2050, the CCC claims, several key policy packages that have experienced Covid-19 related delays must come as a “matter of urgency” ahead of COP26 this November.
Herein lies the difficulty. Top level legal frameworks on net zero are there. But their aptitude for purpose is another debate; the sense of uncertainty is one that potentially leaves corporate strategy hanging in the wind.
Own the running on corporate net zero
There is a powerful solution however. It involves corporates grasping the mantle of internal net zero roadmapping themselves, pre COP26, rather than waiting for a centralised, government-mandated lead on what they should be doing.
If that mantle seems risky, inaction is far riskier. ESG, CSR and reputational damage are certainties for corporates who don’t anticipate the need to internally roadmap their pathway to net zero, to say nothing of the inevitable commercial fallout when climate change punishes legacy businesses failing to truly deliver low carbon solutions.
Evidence of the immediate need for net zero roadmapping is there at top, international level. Earlier this year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) produce the world’s first comprehensive roadmap for the energy sector to reach net zero emissions by 2050, as it further strengthens its leadership role in global clean energy transitions.
It contains some 400 milestones to decarbonising the global economy in three decades. This is massive news. When a leading global energy organisation on sustainable futures roadmaps net zero, it’s a compelling signal every corporate should do similarly.
Why pre COP26?
If executives show leadership and act to mitigate net zero risk now, COP26 can become a showcase opportunity for their firms to position themselves as climate leaders – but arguably such a claim, with its accompanying strategic advantages, will seem empty without genuine net zero targets and roadmaps for delivery.
In its Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap Report, the IEA argues global progress will require greater international cooperation among countries, notably to ensure that developing economies have the financing and technologies they need to reach net zero in time.
Similar future cooperation will also be necessary between corporates, not only to build new, profitable low carbon partnerships but also to create international supply chains that leverage low carbon and get the right technologies and solutions out there at the required scale.
All of this; partnerships, opportunities, profit and cooperation depend on C suites signing off the right, targeted net zero roadmaps that lend their organisations leadership and transparency, and on a day to day scale guide a business transition that must start today to minimise harm business-wide.
Speaking with edie, The Aldersgate Group’s executive director Nick Molho said: “The only way the UK can credibly protect its economy from climate risks and get on track for achieving net zero emissions is by making climate change a top priority for all Government departments and supporting this with detailed and timely policy plans. Today’s reports from the CCC show that this is clearly not the case at present.”
UK businesses can and must avoid similar economic mistakes by getting their net zero house in order, regardless of government. If internal expertise is thin on the ground, skilled net zero consultancies can help to chart a course.
Net zero for the future, today
As ever, time and spend can make the climate change agenda difficult to push across C suite board tables. But the reality is that properly defined net zero roadmaps, that analyse weaknesses and play to strengths will be essential, whether investment and signoff on the work comes today or tomorrow.
For that reason, leveraging the global importance of COP26 as a catalyst for action right now seems the obvious pathway. And remember, the aforementioned CCC-required policy packages for UK net zero as a whole may land at COP26 too. How many corporates out there will be ready with their own, complementary net zero offerings?