Zero carbon’s coming

Over the last few weeks and months we’ve been thinking about the UK’s recently announced zero carbon aims, in particular what it means for the country, and for UK organisations.

For some organisations zero carbon is already within their sights –  we’ve already worked for a number of our forward-thinking clients to define the next stage of carbon reduction and energy efficiency programmes, beyond their 2021 planning horizon.

A summary of recent events

Recent events suggest the UK government may adopt zero carbon targets. In September, Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed the UK will join 18 other countries committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. She has also set aside £160m to help developing nations transition to cleaner energy systems.

Added to this, a new study produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), concludes that climate is changing faster than the current global response. At this rate, there will be catastrophic effects on humanity.

IPCC’s role is to provide a clear scientific view on the causes, impacts and solutions to rising temperatures, for governments. Their study says we need to limit temperature increases to 1.5c above preindustrial levels. To achieve this, rapid changes are needed in four key parts of society

  • energy generation
  • land use
  • cities
  • industry

Despite being met with a muted response, the report is important because it identifies what we all need to do to reduce our climate change impact, irrespective of our position in society.

What this means for the UK

The IPCC report gives us clues about likely changes to UK energy and carbon policy for businesses and organisations.

Based on the IPCC report, Chris Stark (Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change), will advise swift and deep cuts in emissions for the UK. As advisor to the UK government on climate change, Mr Stark says in order to achieve targets, the government must take the country into “uncharted territory”. It will be tough. Market interventions will be politically fraught and test the political consensus on climate change.

What this means for UK organisations

London and nineteen other global cities have already committed to make all new buildings operate at net zero carbon by 2030.

Several UK and International universities are also making public commitments including:

  • The University of Edinburgh, which plans to become zero carbon by 2040
  • Cornell University is developing options for achieving a carbon neutral campus by 2035.
  • American University, Washington DC announced in April that it has achieved carbon neutrality, becoming the first carbon-neutral university, the first urban campus and the first research university in America to achieve this milestone.

We strongly believe that organisations must think now about their trajectory and response to zero carbon. By taking the right decisions today, organisations can avoid getting blind-sided in the coming years.

Watch this space.

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