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The ESG News Review: UK Government urged not to soft pedal on net zero targets

Credit: The ESG News Review

With all the furore surrounding the Government’s various strifes this week, you could be forgiven for not noticing that it has published the country’s Third Carbon Budget obligations.

On paper, it shows some encouraging signs: a surplus achieved over the five year period to the end of 2022, which means the UK was slightly more successful than anticipated in continuing to reduce carbon emissions.

But as the Climate Change Committee - the public institution created under the Climate Change Act to advise all UK government bodies on tackling and preparing for climate change - was quick to point out this week, that achievement is distorted by the economic slowdown and reduction in normal human activity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter sent to Government, the CCC urged for blanket focus and pressure on reducing emissions to be maintained over the next five years, as any ‘soft pedalling’ would threaten hitting the net zero mark and create further uncertainty for businesses.

As this Edie article made clear, under the Climate Change Act, carbon budgets serve as legal benchmarks for greenhouse gas emissions over successive five-year periods.

As a reminder, the Government has set out several key measures for driving the UK towards a net zero position, centred on achieving fully “clean” electricity by 2035, making 80 per cent of new cars sold “zero emission” by 2023, capturing and storing up to 30 billion tonnes of Co2 annually by 2030, and installing 600,000 electric heat pumps a year by 2028 in a mass switch from gas boilers.

It is a tall order, but the contrast between policy murmurs ahead of a General Election and long-term industry investment to decarbonise businesses continues. Telecom network specialist Nokia used the Mobile World Congress show this week to announce that it is bringing forward its own net zero target by a decade to 2040.

So it’s perhaps no surprise that Politico reported that the Government is on the hunt for communicators who can help to relay its case for the net zero transition.

The brief apparently focuses on issues that will be contentious with voters, such as the installation of new pylons to beef up the electricity grid. But it will likely not see communications people hired. Instead, high-profile influencers who are “trusted messengers” on climate topics are being targeted for the enrolment - though as Politico pointed out, Chris Packham reacted that it amounted to “greenwashing collapsing climate policy”.

In other words, the search may take a while.

The ESG News Review is written by Steve Earl, a Partner at PR agency BOLDT.

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