Achieving net zero

Nick Blyth, Policy and Engagement Lead at IEMA, argues that if underpinned by policies and commitments, net zero can be a powerful transition signal, supporting business certainty and investor confidence.

Given the urgency of addressing global carbon emissions, IEMA believes a Net-Zero UK emission target is a unique opportunity for renewed Climate Leadership. Although 2050 feels distant, if underpinned by policies and commitments, Net-Zero can be a powerful transition signal, supporting business certainty and investor confidence, and potentially an industrial strategy that will re-design our economy. What else is required?

Sustainability professionals working across the economy, articulate a common theme – the need for longer term certainty, with criticism of successive Government tinkering and change to climate change policies. Any ambitious 2050 Net-Zero target will need to be underpinned by milestones with effective and lasting regulation, fiscal measures, guidance and standards. New Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) importantly extends a mandatory annual disclosure requirement to over 11,000 businesses in the UK. Transition Risk disclosure is similarly important and TCFD will warrant evolution into a mandatory requirement. IEMA is supporting these and developments internationally, an example being our work with ISO to develop new climate change guidance for standards writers and advising on international standards development in carbon neutrality.

Post Brexit, a further central pillar to support any Net-Zero target is the UK’s new Environment Act. Due later this year, concerns exist that current Government proposals do not yet fill the ‘governance gap’ left by departing the institutions of the EU and especially in climate change. However, the Act is an opportunity to significantly support climate action and to help integrate climate urgency across Government departments from Treasury and BEIS through to Transport, Education, Housing and Environment. Energy efficiency and renewables are essential, and important wider contributions exist from land management (e.g. forestry and peatland sequestration) right through to also ensuring our economy, public services and communities are well adapted and resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Achieving Net Zero clearly requires a strategic approach on many fronts. A further key ingredient is sustainability skills, extending from technical and environment specialists, right across to strategic management, corporate sustainability and business transformation. The priority for innovation identified in recent work by the Aldersgate Group’s net zero report is also a priority for sustainability professionals in their own work. This includes technical innovations, but importantly also extends through to collaborative approaches and championing of the ‘transition business case’. A diversity of sustainability skills will need to be harnessed in delivering our transition to Net-Zero.

Nick Blyth is Policy & Engagement Lead at IEMA