Net Zero – Our Response

Response to UK government’s commitment to Net Zero

Cambridge Cleantech welcomes the UK government’s commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Committee of Climate Change with the goal of reaching net zero by 2050. As the first G7 country to do so, we hope this will encourage other nations to follow suit.

At a time of global crisis, it is crucial that policy makers implement the legislation for Net Zero in letter and spirit and ensure that climate emergency remains a top priority irrespective of party affiliations. A commitment will have little meaning if not backed up by strong policies and regulations needed to achieve results.

We are concerned that the UK government has chosen to include carbon offsets to achieve this target, and included a caveat that this target can be reviewed in five years’ time if other countries do not follow suit. Utilising carbon offsets, which allows countries to balance out their emissions by, for example,  paying for trees to be planted elsewhere, does little to convey the message of a strong commitment to protecting the environment.

Also worth noting is that countries around the world have pushed for more stringent commitments than achieving carbon neutral by 2050. For instance, Norway has committed to become net zero by 2030 and Sweden by 2045. We strongly believe that this is the direction the United Kingdom should aim for as well.

The climate emergency and 1.5 C target present an opportunity for cleantech sector innovators to provide solutions to achieve the targets, but investment in technology is needed to ensure that this can become a reality.

Businesses around the world have recognised that carbon emission reductions present a  unique commercial opportunity. According to a report from the CDP, 225 of the world’s 500 biggest companies reported climate-related opportunities represented potential financial impacts totalling over US$2.1 trillion dollars. The majority of this impact is driven by the potential increase in revenue due to the demand for low emissions products and services. The financial sector alone forecast a $1.2trn opportunity from decarbonisation.

What does this mean for the United Kingdom? In a recent commentary, Sam Frankhaser, Director of Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, made the observation that achieving net zero would need credible commitments from the government on delivery of existing decarbonisation plans, improvement in carbon capture and storage, and development of viable greenhouse gas removal techniques; three areas that are at the core of cleantech innovation. With the right support, the UK has the capability to become a global leader in cleantech innovation.

At present the Low Carbon & Environmental Goods and Services or ‘clean technology’ sector contributes up to 3% of the national Gross Domestic Product and £52 billion in sales across the United Kingdom. In the East of England, this sector has become a crucial driver for economic growth with the Gross Value Added per job more than twice the national average.

We believe that supportive government policies can help combat climate change and propel the UK towards achieving its ambitious target by:

1. Highlighting the UK’s global competitive advantage in cleantech on the international stage, to support cleantech exports.

2. Providing funding support to help cleantech innovators and SMEs to scale up for maximum impact.

3. Incorporating cleantech requirements into the performance measures of public procurement policies, to help drive demand for cleantech solutions.

4. Incentivising the adoption of clean technologies in public infrastructure.

5. Monitoring key cleantech metrics such as energy consumption during major infrastructure projects, and on an ongoing basis.

6. Improving national data on companies working in the cleantech sector, by adding cleantech as an official industrial classification for businesses.

When it comes to the looming disaster that unchecked carbon emissions can lead to, time is running out quickly. Scientists predict that at the current rate of carbon emission reduction, the world is on track to warm by another 2 degrees C in 80 years. However, this crisis has also given us a unique opportunity to use our technological know-how to reduce the most damaging effects of climate change, and it is up to us to seize this opportunity and make the most of it. Cambridge Cleantech, and its sister organisation Oxfordshire Greentech, remain committed to supporting the growth of cleantech innovators in the United Kingdom and would be happy to contribute to any consultation process aimed at attaining the net zero target.