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UK trade policy must be aligned with environmental and climate goals

24th June 2020

In its latest briefing out today, Aligning the UK’s trade policy with its climate and environmental goals, the Aldersgate Group calls on the UK government to ensure its upcoming trade agreements are supportive of the UK’s environmental and climate ambitions. The Group argues that putting environmental and climate considerations at the heart of trade deals will strengthen the competitiveness of UK businesses, protect the UK’s right to regulate to achieve its domestic targets and strengthen the UK’s international standing through the promotion of high environmental standards and best practice on the world stage. 
With the UK legally committed to achieve net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050, a landmark Environment Bill nearing completion and growing business support calling for a green recovery from the COVID-19 crisis [1], today’s briefing sets out key policy recommendations to help maximise opportunities and minimise potential risks from upcoming trade agreements.
Nick Molho, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, said: “Free trade agreements could strengthen the UK’s competitive advantage in the growing global market for low carbon goods and services [2] and increase the UK’s international standing by promoting high environmental standards and global climate co-operation. But without the right provisions, these agreements could make it harder for the UK to achieve its domestic targets and could create an uneven playing field for British businesses forced to compete with imports abiding by lower climate and environmental standards.”
To maximise opportunities, today’s briefing argues that future trade agreements should include enforceable environmental provisions, such as a reciprocal commitment between trading partners to deliver the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. It calls on the Trade Bill to provide for robust parliamentary and stakeholder scrutiny of the environmental impacts of free trade agreements and encourages the government to prioritise the removal of barriers and lowering of tariffs for trade in low carbon goods and services.
To minimise risks, the Group argues that the UK’s right to regulate should be clearly enshrined in future trade deals and that the government should avoid agreeing to any kind of dispute settlement or regulatory co-operation mechanisms that could impose restrictions on its ability to introduce new climate and environmental policies in the future. In parallel with its trade policy, the briefing also calls on the government to put in place ambitious domestic policies such as product standards to grow the market for low carbon goods and services and require all businesses active on the UK market to comply with the same standards.
Nick Molho added: “Existing free trade agreements have paid insufficient attention to environmental and climate considerations, with environmental terms often playing second fiddle to economic terms. With the business community strongly behind the UK’s environmental and climate ambitions, the Global Britain agenda should be about creating a first of a kind trade policy that puts environmental and clean growth considerations at the heart of future trade deals.”

Alan Tinline, Head of Environment at ABP, said: “ABP welcomes this briefing setting out how the UK can develop an ambitious trade policy which grows trade and enhances environmental standards. As the UK’s leading port owner and operator, ABP is committed to working with government and industry partners to build sustainable supply chains for UK businesses. An ambitious trade policy can further boost UK exports in low carbon technologies, goods and services, helping to achieve shared objectives on decarbonisation, sustainable trade growth and economic rebalancing.”

Shaun Spiers, Executive Director of Green Alliance, said: “If the government is to become a true global leader on climate action, it must use the current opportunity to promote a net zero trade policy. This will benefit both business and the environment. It will be much easier to achieve if the UK gives top priority, in the coming months, to forging a close future environmental partnership with the EU.”

Nick Blyth, Policy Lead at IEMA, said: “There are internationally some concerns around ‘barriers to trade’ and the notion that additional carbon accounting requirements (for example on products) could economically disadvantage some countries. However, at the same time, carbon itself is a growing global commodity, its trade recognised as having a role in implementing the Paris Agreement and in transitions to net-zero. Trade deals and governments must all factor in and support this developing market and address concerns around leakage, competitiveness, and offshored emissions.”

Mike Cole, Head of Public Affairs UK & ROI at Michelin, said: “In this post Brexit new world, the UK will forge new trading relationships with its longstanding partners. It is absolutely vital, however, that no compromise is made on the exacting environmental standards on which the UK is at the forefront. Indeed, the UK will have the opportunity to leverage its excellence and expertise in the low carbon field to grow and expand the sector both at home and abroad. To that end, ensuring a level environmental playing field at the highest possible level will be absolutely crucial.”

Nick Shenken, partner at TLT LLP, said: “As we move towards net zero there’s a real opportunity for the UK to develop a green economy, and aligning the UK’s trade and climate policy would provide a strong foundation from which to shape this future. It would also allow the UK to foster green supply chains which in turn will boost economic recovery, provide jobs in sectors such as clean energy, and allow the UK to take advantage, both at home and via future exports, of the growing market for low carbon goods and services. Key to the latter however will be a joined up government approach so that DIT have clear forward visibility on UK energy policy and are well positioned to negotiate trade agreements that promote trade in those low carbon goods and services on a level playing field.”

Nick Shenken, partner at TLT LLP, added: “Just as importantly, there’s an opportunity for the UK to use FTA negotiations as a method by which to show international leadership in the context of climate change generally – if more detailed, enforceable provisions can be negotiated which incentivise our trading partners to promote similar environmental standards (and not allow those standards to regress), this will maximise the impact that the UK has.”

[1] On 1 June 2020, around 200 business leaders – including several Aldersgate Group business members - wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and called for an economic recovery plan aligned with the UK’s net zero target and other environmental goals. More information is available here
[2] It is estimated that the global market for low carbon goods and services could grow to around £1trillion a year by 2030:

Low carbon projects are a key solution to jobs, inequality and resilience concerns

12th June 2020

Today, the Aldersgate Group launches a new policy briefing, Seize the moment: building a thriving, inclusive and resilient economy in the aftermath of COVID-19, showcasing a wide range of low carbon and environmental projects that could address some of the key economic and social challenges facing the UK following the COVID-19 crisis. From energy efficiency and charging infrastructure investments to hydrogen trials, green tech and wetland restoration projects, today’s briefing argues that low carbon and nature restoration projects can deliver key benefits in terms of employment, greater regional equality, long-term competitiveness and resilience. 

The briefing contains a wide range of case studies from Aldersgate Group members including Anglian Water, BT, Johnson Matthey, Legal and General Investment Management, National Grid, Scottish Power, Tesco, TLT LLP, Triodos Bank and the RSPB [1]. It follows a recent letter sent by over 200 business leaders to the Prime Minister calling for an economic recovery aligned with the UK’s climate and environmental goals [2] and recommends key policies to deliver these types of projects on the ground.

Reacting to the publication of the briefing, Nick Molho, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, said: “There has rarely been a time when the economic, social and environmental agendas have been so closely aligned. It is clear from the case studies in our report that incentivising low carbon and nature restoration projects as part of the UK’s recovery plan could do much to tackle economic and social concerns around jobs, regional inequality, long-term competitiveness and resilience.”

Today’s policy briefing argues that an economic recovery focused on stimulating low carbon and nature restoration projects could deliver key benefits, including:

  • Addressing regional inequality and unemployment;
  • Strengthening the UK’s economic competitiveness and productivity through investment in the sectors and technologies of the future;
  • Delivering critical public goods, including clean air, better health and improved resilience to future environmental shocks;
  • Building a more resilient financial system fit to withstand future climate shocks;
  • Delivering the Global Britain agenda by strengthening the UK government’s influence ahead of the G7 and COP26 summits that it will be hosting in 2021 and enabling UK businesses to be competitive providers of low carbon goods and services.

Nick Molho added: “Putting an ambitious environmental and climate agenda at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery need not be overly reliant on public money. Targeted public investment will be important to support early stage innovation in areas such as hydrogen and carbon capture and storage but a lot of the heavy lifting can be done through the introduction of clear public policy signals to attract private sector investment in areas such as energy efficiency, charging infrastructure and natural capital projects.”

Peter Simpson, Chief Executive, Anglian Water, said: “The need for economic recovery from COVID-19 in the face of the ever more pressing climate emergency presents business leaders not just with an opportunity to create a fairer, more sustainable future, but a responsibility to do so. I believe we can recover from this pandemic in a way that brings economic, environmental and social prosperity. We stand ready to work with government and our communities on a resilient, low carbon future that leaves nobody behind.”

Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact and Sustainability Officer at BT, said: “As we emerge from the crisis caused by COVID-19, government, businesses and policymakers must put action on climate at the heart of their efforts to revive the economy. BT is stepping up on climate action by backing new green technologies through our Green Tech Innovation Platform and by investing in the UK’s digital infrastructure. We want to encourage and help others to do the same - creating a more sustainable, resilient, low carbon economy.”

Martin Casey, Director Public Affairs Europe at CEMEX, said: “Aligning the economic recovery package with the UK’s net zero emissions goal presents great opportunities for CEMEX. Reducing emissions is not limited to our production process but to the whole life cycle of our products and we have committed globally to reach net zero concrete by 2050. We are committed to continue reducing our direct and indirect emissions in our processes, both through the maximization of the traditional CO2 reduction levers and through implementing Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage (CCUS) and other carbon innovative technologies. Our aim is to enable the development of climate-smart urban projects, sustainable buildings and climate resilient infrastructures. Setting a clear policy direction for restarting the economy will enable the private sector to play its part in the recovery in a way that advances our climate and environmental goals.”

Steve Andrews, CEO at Earthwatch Europe, said: “It is heartening to see so many organisations calling on Government to ensure a fairer, greener recovery post-COVID-19.  Let’s hope they’re listening.  If COVID-19 and lockdown have taught us anything, it is the need to take science seriously and for Government to focus now, with urgency, on threats that seem beyond the electoral cycle.” 

Andy Walker, Technical Marketing Director at Johnson Matthey, said: “As this policy briefing outlines, the government has a “historic opportunity” to accelerate the transition to a low carbon and environmentally resilient economy as it develops and implements its strategy to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.  Since the Climate Change Act was passed, the UK has successfully demonstrated that economic growth can go hand in hand with emissions reductions, further supporting the widely held view that measures which cut greenhouse gas emissions and stimulate the economy can be extremely effective in supporting jobs and economic growth.  This “Build Back Better” approach has the additional benefit of putting the UK on track to deliver our 2050 net zero commitments, strengthening our leadership and influence at the upcoming COP26 and G7 summits, as well as generating lasting social, competitiveness and resilience benefits.”

Alexander Burr, Global ESG Public Policy Analyst at Legal and General Investment Management, said: “The UK government is faced with a unique opportunity to show that we are not returning to ‘business as usual’ through a recovery package that accelerates green economic growth. Over recent weeks, businesses and investors have been pledging their willingness and support for this agenda. The government should build on this foundation, bringing forward mandatory climate reporting and broadening its reach. Investors like LGIM need greater transparency and comparability from companies on their climate-related risks and opportunities, to direct capital into ‘green’ projects at scale. As we have seen lately, there is such a thing as being too late – it is time to act now!”

Keith Anderson, CEO of Scottish Power said: “There is now a compelling case for accelerating investment in a cleaner, greener society to deliver positive outcomes for both the economy and the environment. Positive outcomes that will benefit all of us thanks to cleaner power, cleaner home heating and cleaner transport. We must make our recovery green – delivering the much-needed jobs and investment that will get people, businesses, towns and cities back on their feet while cleaning up the environment and decarbonising the economy. The government cannot let this moment pass the country by.”

He added: “We’re proud to be at the forefront of developing green infrastructure projects that will do just that. For example, partnering with Scottish Government and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks to support the shift to electric vehicles in a way that will ensure fair and equal access for all. Developments like this will be a real game-changer in moving us closer to net zero – as well as supporting the economy – and that’s why the two can, and must, go hand in hand. Only by doing that can we all achieve a cleaner and greener future – a better future – quicker.”

Maria Connolly, Head of Clean Energy & Real Estate at TLT LLP, said: “The positive impact that the last few months have had on the environment means that as we’re looking forward the question that’s being asked is, could a green recovery bolster the economy and accelerate our drive towards net zero by emphasising sustainable business practices and modern green industry over more traditional carbon intensive sectors? An economic recovery which places an ambitious environmental and climate agenda at its core would, without a doubt, also refocus growth, policy development and funding. While the backing of the financial sector is need to achieve this vision, for many banks and funders clean energy assets are still viewed as a stable investment, and if you consider the upscale in clean energy generation – an estimated 90GW of wind energy, 80GW of solar power and 30GW of energy storage - that will be required to achieve net zero then this represents an exciting opportunity to drive economic growth by creating jobs and developing local supply chains based on clean energy.”

Bevis Watts, CEO of Triodos Bank UK, said: “We now have a window of opportunity, as we seek to overcome the challenges of the coronavirus crisis. A recovery should seek to increase resilience across all areas of society and focus on shaping a more inclusive and low carbon economy. Triodos has always been a pioneer in sustainable finance – most recently we have been looking at linking the economic and societal benefits we take for granted from nature to real investment in its restoration. We need collaborative action to develop an economy linked to societal health and environmental limits and require a financial sector that proactively looks for solutions to achieve that. Simply a move to avoiding harm is not enough.”

Julia Barrett, Chief Sustainability Officer at Willmott Dixon, said: “We welcome this briefing from the Aldersgate Group, and believe that putting an ambitious environmental and climate agenda at the heart of the recovery will ensure that the UK economy is more competitive in the long-term whilst being more resilient to future risks. We believe that by investing in a nationwide retrofit programme supported by clear policy signals, government could deliver rapid localised job creation, whilst addressing the social inequalities associated with fuel poverty and poor health associated with living in cold homes. This is an essential step on our journey to net zero emissions as 80% of the buildings that will exist in 2050 are here now.”

Darren Moorcroft, CEO of the Woodland Trust, said: “A resilient economy and society require a resilient environment. This welcome work by the Aldersgate Group shows how vital it is that we seize this moment and ensure that actions to reboot the economy set us firmly on the road to net zero and show world leading ambition when it comes to restoring our natural environment.  Protecting, restoring and expanding native tree cover – with all the social, economic and environmental benefits that will bring - belongs at the heart of any ‘green recovery’ worthy of the name. The Woodland Trust has a powerful record of delivery and stands ready to play its part - working alongside business, government and our NGO partners to help transform our nation into a better place for people and wildlife.”


[1] The briefing provides an overview of a wide range of case studies and projects from Anglian Water, BT, Johnson Matthey, National Grid, Scottish Power, the Teeside Collective, Tesco, TLT LLP, Triodos, Legal and General Investment Management and the RSPB. This briefing will soon be followed by in-depth economic analysis from the London School of Economics commissioned by the Aldersgate Group, setting out what should be the key pillars of the UK’s economic recovery plan.

[2] On 1 June 2020, around 200 business leaders – including several Aldersgate Group business members - wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and called for an economic recovery plan aligned with the UK’s net zero target and other environmental goals. More information is available here.

General Election 2019: next five years crucial to deliver climate and environmental goals

19th November 2019

Today the Aldersgate Group publishes its manifesto report, Time to deliver: building a competitive and inclusive green economy, setting out key priorities for the new government following the General Election. The report – which received significant input from business and civil society organisations – calls for the next government to deliver a step change in policy ambition to put the UK on a credible pathway to achieve net zero emissions and urgently reverse the decline in the state of the natural environment.

* This report will be debated at an Aldersgate Group General Election event on Wednesday 27 November at 6.15pm, hosted by BT, with senior representatives of the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Green parties [1] *

Policy decisions over the next five years will have a critical impact on whether the UK is on track to deliver its net zero target and broader environmental ambitions. They will also determine whether UK businesses can be placed in a competitive position as global efforts to cut emissions intensify. Growing public concern about climate and environmental issues has been matched by cross-economy business calls for more ambitious action, as demonstrated by a letter signed by over 130 businesses earlier this year calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to legislate for a net zero target [2].

The Aldersgate Group manifesto argues that tackling climate change and environmental degradation should therefore be a central priority for the new government and sit at the heart of the UK’s economic policy. The next five years should also be about accelerating innovation in low carbon technologies and business models, supporting the UK’s economic competitiveness during the net zero transition and driving job creation as industries evolve and new supply chains are created.

The Aldersgate Group manifesto calls for the next government to:

  1. Put the UK on a credible pathway to achieve net zero emissions, by publishing a targeted update of the Clean Growth Strategy well ahead of the COP26 climate summit. This should include new policies to drive rapid emission cuts in sectors such as buildings and road transport, complete the decarbonisation of the power sector and deliver large scale trials of critical technologies needed to decarbonise industry, long-distance transport and the provision of heat; 
  2. Facilitate a just transition for workers and communities across the UK, by developing a national low carbon skills strategy and ensuring industry, local public bodies and government work together to help attract low carbon investment in parts of the countries in need of economic regeneration;
  3. Pass an ambitious Environment Bill that not only safeguards environmental protections currently enshrined in EU law but also goes beyond the status quo. This should include setting ambitious and legally binding environmental improvement targets and establishing delivery policies covering key areas such as air, water, soils, peatland, biodiversity and resource efficiency. Such targets are important in their own right but also crucial to help the UK adapt to climate change and deliver net zero emissions;
  4. Radically improve the UK’s resource productivity by implementing the Resources and Waste Strategy. Priority actions include introducing detailed regulatory measures (such as product standards) and fiscal incentives (through extended producer responsibility schemes and tax rebates for resource efficient products) that drive greater resource efficiency and cut waste across the economy;
  5. Grow the flows of private finance into green infrastructure by strengthening the Green Finance Strategy in both detail and ambition. This should include introducing a mandatory requirement for businesses and investors to disclose their exposure to climate-related risks from the early 2020s in line with the “TCFD recommendations” [3]; 
  6. Increase global ambition on climate change by capitalising on the UK’s presidencies of the COP26 climate summit in 2020 and G7 in 2021. An ambitious diplomatic policy on climate change should be matched by a trade policy that encourages greater trade in low carbon goods and services and promotes high environmental standards in line with the UK’s domestic goals.

Nick Molho, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, said: “This General Election is taking place at a crucial moment for the environment and the UK’s future competitiveness. Actions over the next five years will determine the UK’s ability to achieve its environmental targets and will also have a profound impact on whether UK businesses can become leading providers of the low carbon goods and services the world economy will increasingly demand.”

Nick Molho added: “The UK will be hosting the critical COP26 climate summit less than a year after the General Election. To be in a credible position to encourage international partners to increase their commitments on climate change, the next government will need to demonstrate that the UK has a comprehensive plan in place to deliver its own net zero target.”

Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer, Aviva Investors, said: “With COP26 in Glasgow, the UK Government has the opportunity to confirm its global leadership in green finance and showcase to other countries what level of ambition and toolkit of policies and incentives are necessary to successfully deliver net zero.”

Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact and Sustainability Officer, BT, said: “We support the UK’s net zero leadership and urge all political parties to prioritise investment in growing the green economy. BT was one of the first companies in the world to set a science-based target aligned to a 1.5 degree pathway, and we have a target to be a net zero emissions business by 2045. We hope the UK’s climate leadership will inspire other countries to take further climate action at the upcoming summits in Madrid and Glasgow.”

Martin Casey, Director Public Affairs Europe, Cemex, said: “Now that the UK has legislated for a Net-Zero target, it is incumbent on the new Government to put in place the right framework and policies that will enable both businesses and people to make the changes necessary. CEMEX supports the need for an ambitious new Environment Bill, that will deliver for the natural environment and ensure that all businesses live up to their legal and social obligations. We look forward to working with the new Government to achieve this whilst promoting business competitiveness.”

Professor Martin Siegert, Co-Director, Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London, said: “This election offers parties the chance to show real leadership by going beyond headline strategic targets, and committing to specific policies and priorities that will deliver the UK’s ambitious environmental and climate change goals. In the run up to the UK’s role as host of COP26 – the 2020 international climate change negotiations – it is vital that the UK shows real progress in moving towards a cleaner, greener future that is fair for all.”

Andy Walker, Technical Marketing Director, Johnson Matthey, said: “Johnson Matthey supports all policies which will help the UK maintain its environmental leadership, as exemplified by the commitment to become a net zero economy by 2050. This is a challenging target but gives a great opportunity for the UK to develop and implement the technologies which will help the world move towards becoming a truly sustainable ecosystem.”  

Andy Walker added: “The UK’s role as host of COP26 in 2020 and the G7 in 2021 provides the stage to demonstrate our environmental commitment to the world, and to encourage other large emitters to take on net zero emissions targets and increase their pledges under the Paris Agreement. Johnson Matthey looks forward to working with the next government to help the UK, and the world, meet these ambitious climate targets, in a just and inclusive way.”

Chris Smith, Managing Director, Michelin Tyre PLC, said: “Michelin welcomes all policies which will help the UK attain its ambitious environmental goals and looks forward to working with the next government to help achieve them. In particular, Michelin is determined to support all initiatives promoting resource efficiency and transport decarbonisation and will give its full backing to COP26 in Glasgow where stock will be taken of the COP21 commitments and CO2 targets will be re-evaluated.” 

Stefano Agostini, CEO, Nestlé UK & Ireland, said: “The Aldersgate Group’s Manifesto provides a clear and coherent set of recommendations for the UK to take action in moving to a green economy. Such actions will be vital in order to meet the commitment the UK has made to achieving a zero carbon economy by 2050. As a company who has made the same commitment to zero net emissions by 2050, we welcome and support policy leadership for a greener future.”

Matthew Wright, Managing Director, Ørsted UK, said: “This is a thoughtful manifesto that reminds us of the huge economic opportunity for UK businesses that awaits if Government sets the right framework for clean growth in the UK. Tackling climate change is the defining challenge of our time, but with the right ambition, and with Government and business working together, the energy transition we need is achievable.” 

Dr Adam Read, External Affairs Director, SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, said: “Over the past two years, Defra has made great strides towards delivering radical policy reform, which will fundamentally change the way products and packaging are produced, and how post-consumer waste is treated, which in turn will drive greater resource-efficiency and reduce waste across the economy. Legislation outlined in the ambitious Environment Bill will enable future Governments to implement Defra’s new strategy, which was developed in close consultation with industries across the circular economy.”

Dr Adam Read added: “It is essential that this programme continues apace regardless of the complexion of Parliament after the General Election. The UK looks sure to miss its EU-imposed recycling target of fifty per cent by 2020, so any post-Brexit Parliament will need to pick up the mantle quickly, if we are to achieve a more sustainable economy and avoid falling behind our European neighbours.”

Bevis Watts, CEO, Triodos Bank UK, said: “We have no time to lose. A climate and environmental emergency calls for immediate action and a radical transformation of the economy. This requires a well-designed overarching transition strategy, steered by government and with participation of all stakeholders in society. The banking sector must also play its part. The Aldersgate Group manifesto provides clear steps to take the UK in the right direction and the next government should have the courage to act accordingly.”

Abi Bunker, Director of Conservation and External Affairs, Woodland Trust, said: “Let’s not shy away from the truth. It will be a challenge, it will cost money, it will mean tough choices, but the human race is at a crossroads for our environmental future. If we are serious about tackling the climate and nature crisis we have to act, that’s the reality we live in, tough choices, big challenge, but we can all rise to meet it head on.”

David Symons, UK Director of Sustainability, WSP, said: “Delivering a resilient, net zero, sustainable economy is vital for the UK’s future prosperity and productivity. Hosting the UN Climate Summit in 2020 provides a watershed moment for the UK to show it can lead on delivery as well as targets setting. All parties should commit to delivering fast action to decarbonise the UK’s economy, pass a strong Environment Bill and maintain high environmental standards to ensure we stay on track to deliver on the UK’s 2050 net zero target, in an inclusive and just way.”


[1] The report will be debated at an Aldersgate Group General Election event hosted by BT on the evening of 27 November, with senior representatives of the Conservative, Green, Labour and Liberal Democrats parties. You can register here:

[2] More than 130 leading businesses urge UK government to legislate for 2050 net zero emissions economy, Aldersgate Group Press Release (31 May 2019):

[3] The Financial Stability Board’s industry-led Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure published its recommendations (the TCFDs) on how consistent climate-related financial disclosures can lead to better pricing and assessment of climate-related risks and more effective measures to mitigate the impact of climate change on businesses and investors. On 9 October 2019, the Aldersgate Group published its latest policy briefing on why mandatory climate disclosure in line with the TCFDs is essential to get to net zero emissions:

Mandatory climate risk disclosure essential to get to net zero

9th October 2019

In a new policy briefing out today, the Aldersgate Group calls on the government to introduce mandatory requirements in the early 2020s for businesses and investors to report their exposure to climate risks in line with the TCFD recommendations and set out what actions they are taking to manage these risks [1]. At a time where the UK has legislated a net zero emissions target and is poised to introduce a new Environment Bill, the Group argues that mandatory disclosure is essential to provide a level playing field across the economy, provide meaningful and comparable information to investors and ensure that business and investment strategies are aligned with the UK’s net zero target.

Today’s new briefing, which received significant cross-industry input, sets out key recommendations to accelerate the take-up of climate risk disclosure aligned with the recommendations of the Financial Stability Board’s Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (‘the TCFDs’):

1. The Government should use its interim review of the Green Finance Strategy [2] in 2020 to make TCFD-aligned reporting mandatory by the early 2020s for all large companies currently reporting to the Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting regime. This should be done on a ‘comply or explain’ basis and should, once best practice and meaningful reference scenarios have been developed, be broadened to a wider range of businesses so that supply chains are comprehensively covered;

2. The introduction of a mandatory requirement to comply with TCFD-aligned reporting should be focused on disclosing decision-useful information, so that disclosure actually leads to a meaningful change in the way in which businesses and investors reduce their exposure to the physical and regulatory risks arising from climate change;

3. Companies should be provided with support to develop the meaningful long-term scenarios required by the TCFDs. The government should provide guidance setting out key assumptions linked to different temperature rise scenarios that companies can then use when developing their own scenarios. Building on the example of the Climate Financial Risk Forum for financial institutions, a Corporate Reporting Lab should be established to provide a safe forum where businesses, industry groups, academics and other organisations can develop sector-specific scenarios and trial different methods of disclosure;

4. In implementing TCFD disclosure requirements, the UK government should continue to work closely with international partners to ensure as much consistency as possible. The European Commission, which recently issued guidelines integrating the TCFD recommendations into the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive, should in particular remain an important partner.

5. Investors should play a more proactive role, by ensuring that the companies they invest in are taking climate risk disclosures seriously and by holding them accountable for inadequate risk management.

Nick Molho, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, said: “Mandatory disclosure of climate risks focused on improving business and investor decisions is essential to drive economy-wide action to cut emissions in line with the UK net zero target and improve the economy’s resilience to the physical impacts of climate change and the risks associated with a disorderly transition to a net zero economy. Mandatory adoption of the TCFD recommendations is also essential to ensure that best reporting practice is adopted across the economy and that investors are provided with transparent, meaningful and comparable information.”

Nick Molho added: “The UK is in a leadership position when it comes to green finance and climate action. The government can extend this leadership by announcing the introduction of mandatory TCFD-aligned reporting as part of the interim review of the Green Finance Strategy in 2020 and by using its influential position as host of the COP26 climate summit to encourage its key international partners to follow suit.”


[1] The Financial Stability Board’s industry-led Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure published its recommendations (the TCFDs) on how consistent climate-related financial disclosures can lead to better pricing and assessment of climate-related risks and more effective measures to mitigate the impact of climate change on businesses and investors.    

[2] The Green Finance Strategy, published in July 2019, sets out the government’s expectation that all listed companies and large asset owners will disclose in line with TCFD recommendations by 2022. However, it does not make these disclosures mandatory. An interim review of progress in 2020 will assess whether further action is required on TCFD implementation, with a formal review due in 2022.

Businesses positive about a UK net zero emissions target but it must come with bold innovation support

4th April 2019

Based on extensive business engagement and new research from Vivid Economics and the UK Energy Research Centre, the Aldersgate Group launches two new reports today [1]. They argue that a net zero emissions target could provide a significant industrial opportunity for UK businesses as long as it is accompanied by a much bolder innovation policy and ambitious market creation measures that are informed by a clear understanding of lifecycle emissions. These policies should seek to accelerate the innovation at scale of critical technologies such as carbon capture and storage and hydrogen, and rapidly grow the demand for ultra-low carbon infrastructure, products and services.

Both reports, which come ahead of the publication of the Committee on Climate Change’s advice to government, will be presented at an Aldersgate Group event hosted by RICS from 9.30am - 11:00am on Thursday 4th April [2]. See business reactions below.

1. The first report, Accelerating innovation towards net zero, from Vivid Economics and the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) commissioned by the Aldersgate Group, sets out key recommendations to accelerate innovation. These recommendations come from a review of past case studies of rapid innovations relevant to decarbonisation from the banking, manufacturing and energy sectors [3]. 

2. The second report, Zeroing in: capturing the opportunities from a UK net zero emission target, from the Aldersgate Group, establishes key policy measures that should accompany a UK net zero emissions target to maximise industrial opportunities for UK businesses and avoid unintended consequences. It features innovative case studies from the energy, steel, aviation, manufacturing, ICT and cement sectors showing how businesses are already taking action towards net zero emissions.

Key messages to government include:

1. Urgently accelerate efforts to meet current carbon budgets to provide a credible foundation from which to achieve net zero emissions. The UK is currently not on track to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets [4]. To rectify this and put the UK on a credible and cost-effective pathway to achieve net zero emissions, government must urgently pursue low-regret policy options. These include significantly improving energy efficiency in buildings through the introduction of binding regulatory standards and fiscal incentives and accelerating the roll-out of zero emission vehicles through tightening emission standards in the 2020s and guaranteed plug-in vehicle grants.

2. Provide long-term visibility to businesses by setting a net zero target as soon as possible after the CCC publishes its advice [5]. Long-term clarity is essential to inform cost-effective business investment decisions in the new business models and high capital cost infrastructure required to achieve net zero emissions. Government should work with industry to set sector-based decarbonisation roadmaps underpinning this target, following the example of the Swedish fossil free industry roadmaps.

3. The Government’s innovation policy should overcome the fear of failure and be focused on demonstrating the viability of critical technologies and systems at scale, including through public-private funding arrangements. This should include supporting at scale demonstration of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), the use of hydrogen in heating, Direct Air Capture technology and continued innovation in offshore wind. Government – and its stakeholders – should recognise that successful and unsuccessful trials provide equally valuable lessons to inform good policymaking. 

4. Market creation policies based on an understanding of lifecycle emissions are essential to accelerate innovation and deploy new low carbon infrastructure, goods and services at scale. Market standards informed by lifecycle emissions can help grow the market for critical infrastructure and products such as ultra-low carbon building materials, guarantee a level playing field for business and avoid offshoring emissions. Stable revenue policies such as through incentives for fossil fuel using industries to store their carbon emissions can provide a market for CCS.

5. Mandate new or existing institutions to accelerate innovation and co-ordinate the early stage deployment of complex technologies such as low carbon heat and CCS. Past innovations show that third party institutions can accelerate knowledge sharing between businesses and sectors and co-ordinate the efficient deployment of complex infrastructure. For example, government-backed organisations in the UK and Denmark ensured that successful wind energy designs proliferated more quickly, whilst the Gas Council in the UK played an essential role in the late 1960s in developing bulk gas supplies, rolling out a gas network and supporting the rapid customer take-up of gas boilers and central heating in homes.

6. Support the UK’s workforce so it can benefit from the economic opportunities that a net zero target could provide. This requires developing a cross-departmental education and training strategy to ensure the workforce is equipped with the skills required by the net zero transition, working with industry to understand future needs. Government should also work with businesses and Local Enterprise Partnerships to encourage low carbon supply chain investment decisions to be made in parts of the country facing high unemployment risks and where similar skill sets can be found.

7. Use the UK’s diplomatic reach and new trade policy to promote the adoption of net zero targets globally. Through its extensive diplomatic network of climate attachés, the UK can play an influential role in encouraging the adoption of net zero targets globally in the run-up to the COP26 climate summit in December 2020. The UK’s future trade policy after Brexit should support the delivery of its net zero target and promote growing trade in low carbon goods and services.

Nick Molho, Executive Director, Aldersgate Group, said: “UK businesses are ready to take up the challenge of delivering a net zero emissions target but bold innovation and market creation policies will be essential to give them the support they need. Businesses want to see the government’s innovation policy move beyond the ‘fear of failure’ and trial critical technologies such as CCS and hydrogen at scale in order to inform key policy decisions in areas such as heat and industrial decarbonisation. Support for innovation must be combined with measures informed by lifecycle emissions, such as markets standards, to grow the demand for ultra-low carbon infrastructure, products and services and set a market level playing field in the process.”  

Alex Kazaglis, Principal, Vivid Economics, said: "Achieving a net zero emissions goal requires a vast economic transition in just a few decades. History tells us that such transitions are possible, but a broad program of government action is vital. Government can accelerate the adoption of innovative technologies through demonstrating key technologies at-scale, making use of important skills and knowledge spillovers between sectors, strengthening market signals and harnessing the disruptive power of digital technologies." 

Professor Jim Watson, Director, UK Energy Research Centre, said: “Accelerating innovation will be essential if a net zero target is to be met by the middle of this century. Our report shows this is likely to require governments to implement comprehensive, mission-oriented policy programmes that include support for R&D, demonstrations and market creation. Institutional innovations could also be needed - including, for example, a new public delivery body to develop pipeline and storage infrastructure for carbon capture and storage (CCS).”

Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer, Aviva Investors, said: “Aviva Investors is currently directly investing over £500 million a year in innovative infrastructure projects that deliver significant emissions reductions. A net zero emissions target would give us the confidence we need to scale up these investments and help to deliver a zero carbon economy in the UK. To make further progress, we need government to pursue market creation policies based on an understanding of lifecycle emissions and innovation policies that overcome the fear of failure and focus on demonstrating the viability of critical technologies and systems at scale.”

Andy Wales, Chief Digital Impact and Sustainability Officer, BT Group, said: “We need policymakers to continue to set more ambitious targets, encouraging businesses to make their own bold commitments and generating greater positive momentum to a net zero future. We have set an ambitious net zero by 2045 target, but we need collaboration and policy support to realise it.” 

Martin Casey, Director, Public Affairs & Communications UK & Public Affairs EU, CEMEX, said: “CEMEX supports efforts to understand better how the UK can achieve net zero, and therefore welcomes these new reports. CEMEX’s use of fuels derived from unrecyclable wastes in cement manufacture helps us contribute to the circular economy whilst also reducing our carbon emissions. We are eager to understand further how the journey to net zero could be achieved, including utilising carbon capture use and storage technologies without negatively impacting competitiveness. It is essential that the government gets on with the job of trialling critical technologies at scale to support business in this process and considers how lifecycle emissions can better inform future policy measures.”

Sam French, Business Development Manager, Johnson Matthey, said: “The latest IPCC assessments are showing that global emissions need to move to net zero by 2050, which presents a great opportunity for UK industry to implement existing low carbon technologies and develop new ones to be one of the leaders in this transition to a net zero carbon world. 

At Johnson Matthey we are driving innovation in low carbon hydrogen generation, batteries and fuel cells, as well as constantly looking for new areas of sustainable chemistry to help meet these future needs. To put UK businesses at the forefront of global efforts to move to net zero, further policy support is needed to drive large scale, low carbon projects using known technologies and help businesses to “learn by doing” and to incentivise future-focused innovation by providing a clear market demand for these technologies.”

Benet Northcote, Partner & Director of Corporate Responsibility, the John Lewis Partnership, said: "Urgent action is needed to keep global warming below 1.5C to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate breakdown. Now, more than ever, businesses and government must respond with ambitious and credible zero emissions targets. At the John Lewis Partnership we are committed to making significant emissions cuts in the vital period of the next ten years through investment in new refrigeration technology, biomethane-powered trucks and renewable electricity, and we have set out a clear path to becoming a net zero operation by 2050 at the latest."

Alexander Law, Public Affairs Manager, Michelin Tyre, said: "At Michelin, we fully support the aim of reaching net zero carbon dioxide emissions in keeping with the 2015 Paris Agreement. This will require clarity from government on the pathway going forward as these global issues require long-term planning and structural changes and not just quick fixes. In particular we support effective and robust carbon pricing mechanisms which should help change investment decision-making processes without penalising consumers unduly." 

Dr Jonathan Scurlock, Chief Adviser, Renewable Energy and Climate Change, National Farmers' Union, said: “Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time, and British farmers are ready to take action. The NFU’s ambition is to strive for net zero greenhouse gas emissions across the whole of agricultural production by 2040. A combination of policies and practises are needed to achieve this aim, and the NFU is looking to build upon our work on industry-led initiatives such as the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan to help deliver this. We look forward to a smart and well-targeted partnership with Government and other agricultural stakeholders.”

Chris Fry, Infrastructure & Regeneration Director, Ramboll, said: “The Zeroing in report highlights the need to accelerate cost effective short term action, whilst establishing a clear, long term framework for more significant changes and technological breakthroughs. Accelerating decarbonisation may be best served by policies and industry initiatives designed to galvanise the uptake of existing solutions. For example, leveraging investment in major regeneration and infrastructure renewal programmes to embed energy efficiency, resource efficient digitalised design and harnessing waste heat sources for district heating.”

Sean Tompkins, CEO, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said: “These reports show that people shouldn’t fear the transition to a low-carbon economy. Buildings account for 60% of global electricity use and produce more than one-third of all greenhouse emissions, so our profession should see it as a huge opportunity to innovate and modernise. That’s why we’re supporting them with resources, skills and standards to ensure this happens.”

Sarah Handley, Carbon Neutral Programme Manager, Siemens plc, said: “Siemens is committed to be carbon neutral by 2030, working with our customers to deliver intelligent and sustainable solutions. We call on government to provide leadership so we can all play our part in addressing the risks of climate change.” 

Stuart Hayward-Higham, Technical Development Director, SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, said: “SUEZ is taking part in a number of industrial collaborations across our operations as we align our business and sustainability goals both laterally across the value chain and vertically with other value chains, with those of our customers and industrial partners. However, to make further progress, we need government to openly prioritise the green growth sectors it wants to support so we can explore the industrial opportunities for using residual wastes as potential feedstocks for this future green growth agenda (from aviation fuels, to sugars, polymers and heat offtake). We will invest in new transformational infrastructure needed if the policy direction is clear.”

Bevis Watts, Managing Director, Triodos Bank UK, said: “We believe that a fundamental transition is needed away from a carbon based economy to a renewable one. To stimulate this transition, we are lending and supporting investment in this sector, focusing on financing solar, wind and hydro energy as well as energy efficiency and new technologies. In order to accelerate investment in projects that will help to cut emissions in the UK, we need government to provide long-term clarity and visibility on a net zero target to give us greater confidence in investing in the innovative low carbon technologies that will be crucial to achieving a net zero emissions goal in the UK.” 

Julia Barrett, Director, Willmott Dixon Re-Thinking, said: “Sustainability makes good business sense and at Willmott Dixon, setting challenging carbon reduction targets makes us more efficient and effective. We have exceeded our current goal to reduce our carbon intensity by 50% by the end of 2020 compared to 2010 levels. However, extending beyond the 59% reduction we have achieved towards the imperative of net zero emissions will get progressively harder without accelerated government support for this agenda. We would welcome regulatory standards to improve energy efficiency in buildings, and standards, informed by lifecycle analysis, to grow the market for low carbon building materials.”

Dr Maria Brogren, Director of Sustainability and Innovation, WSP Sweden, said: "The Swedish government aims for Sweden to become the world’s first climate neutral welfare society. The target is net zero emissions by 2045. To help meet this goal, WSP Sweden has pledged to ensure its operations are climate neutral by 2040 and to possess the competence to help our clients to cut their CO2 emissions in half by 2030.

Support from government is essential to meet the national target, and policy initiatives such as facilitating the development of climate neutrality roadmaps for different business sectors and allotting funding for flagship projects, such as climate neutral steel production, is crucial. These actions provide a clear direction for the Swedish business sector, which facilitates the investments needed to reach net zero.”


[1] These two new reports will be available on the Aldersgate Group’s website at the following link from 00.01 Thursday 4 April 2019

[2] This event will be held from 9.00am - 11.00am on Thursday 4th April at RICS, 12 Great George Street, Parliament Square, London SW1P 3AD. Chaired by Nick Molho, Executive Director at the Aldersgate Group, the event will feature a review of each report from Nick Molho and Alex Kazaglis, Principal at Vivid Economics. The event will then proceed to a panel debate with Dr Maria Brogren, Director of Sustainability and Innovation at WSP Sweden, Sam French, Syngas New Market Manager at Johnson Matthey, Sarah Handley, Carbon Neutral Programme Manager at Siemens plc, Chris McDonald, Advisor at the GREENSTEEL Council, Graham Meeks, Head of Policy at the Green Investment Group and Dr Jonathan Scurlock, Chief Adviser, Renewable Energy and Climate Change at the National Farmers' Union. 

[3] Case studies reviewed in this report include (i) the deployment of the ATM network and cash cards across the UK; (ii) the roll out of a gas network and central heating in the UK; (iii) the development of wind turbines in Denmark and the UK; (iv) moving from late-stage adoption of steel technology in South Korea to being the world-leading exporter; and (v) the failure to develop commercial-scale CCS to date across the world. A table summarising the report’s recommendations can be found on page 4 of the report.

[4] CCC (June 2018) Progress Report to Parliament 

[5] The UK has an existing target of at least an 80% emission reduction between now and 2050 against 1990 levels under the Climate Change Act. The CCC has been asked by Minister of State Claire Perry MP, along with the Scottish and Welsh governments and support from senior Northern Ireland officials, to review the UK’s long-term climate targets, and their advice is expected on 2 May 2019.