5 insights into Net Zero from Chris Stark of the Climate Change Committee

April 22, 2022

City Science’s Jo Muncaster shares five insights into decarbonisation and the UK’s Net Zero Strategy after being able to question Chris Stark from the Climate Change Committee during a recent webinar.

1) The good news - globally, we’re still in the game (just)

The good news is that we're still in the game. Despite last-minute deliberations on coal use, the inclusion of fossil fuels in the COP26 rulebook was critical and positive developments included a material increase in ambitions to reduce emissions across the world, finalisation of rules on reporting emissions and international carbon trading, and the launch of a range of new initiatives and sector deals. Overall this means that we now have the bones of what we need to make the necessary changes to achieve Net Zero and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

2) In the UK, our Net Zero Strategy is a positive step…

Here in the UK, the government’s Net Zero Strategy is another positive development being ambitious in its scope and setting out how the Government will tackle some of the major cross-cutting challenges involved in the transition. That said, there are some big gaps in important areas such as a combined decarbonisation strategy for agriculture and land, plans for a Net Zero Test and focus on the demand side.

3) Implementation will be the hardest challenge we’ve ever faced (and we all need to contribute)

While pressure will still be needed at a policy level, switching to implementation and delivery is now crucial and in this area we all need to play our part. Time is running out and we need to show leadership and embrace behavioural change, even in the absence of complete information. Meaningful, practical implementation of carbon reduction therefore needs to be a priority with immediate effect across the private and public sectors as well as at an individual level.

4) Focus on sustainability and Net Zero needs to be driven at a board and strategic level

When it comes to organisations, the necessary levels of behavioural change are unlikely to be realised without buy-in at the highest levels. For example, if your CEO commutes by bicycle, you can bet that your company will join the Cycle-to-Work programme and that adequate cycle storage will be a priority. By contrast, if your board is not engaged, implementation of meaningful change is always likely to be de-prioritised and it is therefore unlikely to be delivered effectively. In addition, policies that promote Net Zero behaviours must permeate all levels of the organisation.

5) Your supply chain offers a great opportunity to leverage the difference you can make

Working on our own businesses is crucial, but Chris encourages us all to increase our impact by asking questions of our suppliers and service providers. What are they doing, for example, to get to Net Zero or reduce waste and water usage? He recommends we should use our bargaining power more effectively and even consider taking their products/services to tender if we think there are suppliers with better Net Zero practices out there.

Resources

We've seen a significant increase in the last year in the number of guidelines and frameworks that support both of the above key takeaways. If you're interested in learning more about how to incorporate these into your business, you can contact me at jo.muncaster@cityscience.com

You can read more from Chris Stark on the Climate Change Committee website

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