What is the climate emergency declaration?
The United Nations say we could have just 11 years left to limit a climate change catastrophe. The UK is the first country in the world to declare a “climate emergency” – one of the key demands put to the government by environmental activist group, Extinction Rebellion, and the recent declaration will accelerate efforts for the UK to become carbon-neutral by 2050.
This will see increasing pressure on commercial enterprises to support the transition to a low carbon economy and the government’s ambition to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 will have a significant impact on businesses, particularly within the built environment.
How will the UK achieve zero carbon by 2050?
The UK is already legally committed to an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 (relative to 1990 emission levels) and in 2017, successfully lowered emissions to 43% below 1990 levels. However, according to the Committee on Climate Change, the UK is unlikely to meet its targets for 2023 – 2027. So, just how realistic or achievable is the new ‘net-zero’ target?
The transition to a zero-carbon economy will require a concerted effort and action by all sections of society. It requires the right policies and government funding to support businesses to achieve this new target, whilst maintaining a balance with all the other pressures being faced across industry.
According to the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) it will cost 1 to 2 percent of GDP each year (approximately £50 billion per year) to achieve net-zero by 2050. However, other sources speculate that this cost could be considerably higher when considering the impact on different sectors of the economy.
Whilst the CCC believe it is technically feasible to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, it will clearly be challenging. The UK has already set carbon budgets and developed policies on the path to an 80% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050. However more needs to be done to accelerate the progress already made by the UK as illustrated below.
The decarbonisation of the UK will require significant investment and have important implications on decisions over infrastructure, innovation and the role of societal change. The CCC illustrates the transition implied in their ‘Future Ambitions’ scenario to achieve net-zero carbon by 2050.
How will this affect businesses in the UK?
At this early stage it is difficult to predict the effect this will have on UK businesses, but one can fairly confidently assume rising costs of energy and an increasingly onerous legislative landscape. The UK Government already has policies in place to help achieve the current target of 80% GHG but the pressure on all sectors of business and industry will only get stronger.
We would hope that in aid of this recent development, the UK Government will support businesses through this transition. Increasing the availability of grants to fund energy efficiency schemes and educating owners / investors on suitable technologies available to them, would be welcomed although the lessons will have to be learned from less-than-successful previous legislative interventions, in particular those targeting the built environment.