Christian M. 5 min read

What are the UK’s climate commitments and how can your business help?

The UK is one of the world leaders when it comes to fighting climate change, having ratified its net-zero goals by signing the Glasgow Pact at the annual UN Conference of Parties (COP 26) last year.

However, net zero by 2050 is no easy feat and there are still many unknowns in the UK’s strategy and in world affairs which need fulfilling before this becomes a reality.

In this article, we explain why it is essential (and lucrative!) for businesses and individuals to reduce their emissions, especially since this is a problem that will ultimately affect us all.

What are the UK’s climate commitments?

The UK is one of the only countries to have committed and developed a plan for net-zero emissions by 2050 together with countries like Germany, Ukraine, France, Spain and Italy.

This plan includes goals for different industries and shorter-term goals for the intervening years, including a 68% emissions reduction* by 2030 and a 78% reduction* by 2035.

*emissions reduction compared to 1990 emissions.

Who decided net zero by 2050?

This figure became widely accepted during the signing of the 2015 Paris Agreement, in which 192 countries agreed to pursue efforts to keep global warming to below 1.5C degrees.

This was deemed the limit to avoid dangerous climate change according to the most sophisticated climate models, which translates to a reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions to the point of reaching net-zero by 2050.

In 2021, the Glasgow Climate Pact (COP 26) was signed by 197 countries, which ratified their commitment and introduced a series of shorter-term goals to improve the chances of net-zero.

Despite this, most countries around the world are still deemed to be “insufficiently” committed to avoiding dangerous climate change, including the UK.

How will the UK achieve its climate commitments?

In order to achieve net-zero by 2050, the government has set up ambitious goals and benchmarks affecting the most polluting sectors like electricity generation, heating, transportation, food production, manufacturing and agriculture.

These are based on a long series of government-sponsored inter-disciplinary studies such as Building for 2050.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of some specific policies to curb emissions:

  • All of the UK’s electricity generation must come from green energy by 2035.
  • Heat pump installation rates must reach 600,000 per year by 2028.
  • No new petrol and diesel cars to be sold by 2030.
  • 20-30 million tonnes of CO2 must be captured and stored by 2030.
  • Increasing the number of sectors eligible for the UK Emissions Trading Scheme.

Is the UK on track to meet its climate commitments?

The general consensus seems to be that the UK has set up very ambitious goals and plans on paper, which still need to translate to actual delivery and the agreement of tougher policies.

For example, there still is no strategy available for phasing out all gas-fired power stations by 2035, or a reliable way of storing the energy produced by the increasing number of wind farms.

Also, there are still no clear incentives for enhancing property insulation to complement heat pump installations, despite the UK having some of the worst-insulated households in Europe.

Agriculture is still excluded from the UK’s Emissions Trading Scheme even when it is one of the most polluting sectors.

And Hydrogen production and Carbon Storage and Sequestration (CSS) are still in their infancy despite being significant proponents of the net-zero strategy.

Will the UK climate commitments change in future?

Science and technology are constantly evolving, so it is impossible to predict how the UK will adapt to new findings or unforeseeable global events.

For example, despite pledging a reduction in fossil fuels, the recent urge to improve energy security as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led the government to approve gas production from the Jacksaw gas field in the North Sea.

It is therefore essential for businesses to prepare for the unexpected and secure their energy and water needs.

One way to do this is by undertaking a water audit and an energy audit to best identify changes you can make now to be prepared for the future.

How can my business help the UK achieve its climate commitments?

Despite the vigorous government reassurance that everything is under control, it is clear that there are still many challenges that lie ahead to achieving this ambitious goal.

This is especially the case when scaling these climate positive solutions nationwide, considering 2030 is now less than eight years away.

For those looking to innovate, this brings incredible business opportunities. Just look at the potential benefits of blockchain technology in emissions reduction or the potential for recycling waste like coffee grounds to produce biofuels.

For those in traditional businesses, using AquaSwitch to compare your business water, electricity or gas suppliers will let you save on your gas bills. Ultimately, any unspent money may be invested in making your business green.

Finally, joining the UK Business Climate Hub will let you connect with other forward-thinking businesses and may even help you demonstrate that, like the UK, you are also implementing a 2050 net-zero vision.

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