by Sabrina Chiaretti, Consultant
In 2008, The Climate Change Act came into force, committing the Government to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. To do so, the Government was required to set legally binding targets, called carbon budgets, which limit the amount of greenhouse gas the UK can emit over a five-year period. The Act also established an independent expert body, the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC), to advise on the appropriate levels of each carbon budget and to report on the progress made toward these levels.
The Act was an unprecedented call to action for the UK to emerge as a global leader in the fight against climate change and it represented a significant opportunity for businesses to deliver essential transformation to benefit the environment and the UK economy.
In June 2018, 10 years after the Act came into force, the CCC reported that the UK is set to miss its fourth and fifth carbon budgets, which together cover a period of 10 years, from 2023 to 2032.
In the recently published 2018 Progress Report to Parliament, the CCC claims that, despite the steady shift to renewable power, the Government has failed to set challenging policies that will support the decarbonisation of some sectors, particularly the transport, agriculture, heat and built environment sector.
In fact, since 1990, the UK’s emissions have fallen by 42%. The power sector has contributed the most to this reduction (75%) making significant progress in decarbonising the electricity grid, mainly through investments in offshore wind, and providing clean energy at a dramatically falling cost to customers. On the other hand, the transport, industry, buildings, agriculture and waste sector only contributed 25% to this reduction.
BEIS (2018) 2017 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Provisional Figures
It is therefore essential that more robust, fully-funded, low-risk policies are set, to enable other sectors to follow the power industry’s lead in reducing emissions. For this purpose, the CCC provided four strategic recommendations to the Government to put emissions reductions back on track:
- Support the simple, low-cost options, such as tree planting and food waste recycling.
- Commit to effective regulations and strict enforcement.
- End the chopping and changing of policies, to ensure a consistent policy environment.
- Act now to keep long-term options open, by investing in new national infrastructures, such as carbon capture and storage.
BEIS (2018) 2016 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Final Figures
Implications for business: Climate change mitigation and adaptation
In the short term, every company needs to have a mitigation strategy in place, to mitigate their environmental impact by investing in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies, thus taking a proactive approach to future challenging emissions regulations and avoiding future costly interventions. The transition to a low carbon economy must also be viewed as a business opportunity, particularly for those companies in and around the sectors highlighted in this report.
In the long term, as extreme weather events grow in frequency and intensity, businesses will need to have in place a comprehensive adaptation plan, to ensure their facilities and operations are climate-ready, thus reducing the financial impact of climate-related events.
Businesses can now benefit from the robust disclosure guidance of the TCFD – the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure – which provides the direction companies need to assess the financial implications of climate change on their business and report on the economic impact of all climate-related risks.
Here at Simply Sustainable, we support businesses to mitigate their impact on climate change and ensure their operations are climate-ready, through mitigation and adaptation plans that enable them to deliver essential transformations that benefit the business, customers, the environment and the UK economy.
If you are interested in exploring how your business can mitigate and adapt to climate change, or implement the TCFD recommendations, please get in touch.