Just Transitioning and Net Zero
Following the UK’s decision to require large companies to demonstrate their commitment to climate change targets, Justin Kelly, Siemens PLC corporate communications director, presents key findings of new research that is to be unveiled at COP26 demonstrating why climate action is a corporate imperative.
The halfway stage has now passed between 1990 – the year signatory countries to the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol agreed to use as a benchmark for their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – and 2050, the year many countries set as their target for carbon net zero.
The UK was the first major economy to enshrine this target in law, and huge progress has been made. We have halved total industry emissions over the past 30 years. But staying on target is getting tougher. The only way to achieve a two-thirds drop by 2035 is for organisations to take ownership of the challenge and work in partnership taking small, incremental steps.
At Siemens, environmental protection is central to our thinking. In 2015, we were among the first industrial companies worldwide to commit to achieving carbon neutrality in its business operations by 2030. Since then, we have reduced our CO2 emissions by more than 50% thanks to electric vehicles, energy efficient buildings and renewable power. We are also aiming for a 20% cut in supply chain emissions by 2030, and a carbon-neutral supply chain by 2050.
There is no need to wait for new discoveries or work with ideas that are untested in the real world with much of the technology required already readily available. For example, staff at Siemens’ Congleton plant came up with lots of ideas based on existing technology for the Think Green initiative. Among those implemented are decentralised boilers and solar roof panels to heat water.
Meanwhile, water consumption was cut by 1500 square metres thanks to “hippos”, cisternmisers and aerators in shower heads, and a wormery reduced canteen landfill waste by 12 per cent — 6.5tonnes. Not only did these innovations slash carbon emissions, they saved £94,500 in the first year alone.
Part of the reason for the programme’s success was that it involved employees and built on their ideas. Winning hearts and minds is essential if we are to meet the Net Zero target. Such programmes will fail if some are left behind. We need to take people with us as we plan how to recover from Covid-19 and create a resilient net-zero carbon economy. There must be a ‘levelling up’ of economic and social prospects across the UK as well as climate impact.
Not everyone has a blueprint for how to achieve this. Most big UK firms and financial institutions will be forced to show how they intend to hit climate change targets, and must do so by 2023, setting out detailed public plans for how they will move to a low-carbon future – in line with the UK’s 2050 net-zero target. That is why Business in the Community (BITC) has conducted national research into how to build a just and inclusive transition that delivers climate action along with positive social impact*. The study gathers expertise and insight from business, key stakeholders and communities. Its aims are to understand people’s diverse perspectives, their needs and goals, and what role business can play to accelerate and achieve this at work, home and in communities.
These research findings will form the basis for collaborative local and sector-specific action across the UK. Businesses will be able to make achieving a just and inclusive transition integral to their climate strategy and to lead on local action. And community organisations will be able to work more closely with business to help local people drive change in their communities.
Initial findings show that:
- 76 per cent of the public are not aware of what businesses are doing to tackle the climate crisis, and those that do, 62 per cent do not trust them to follow through.
- Only 14 per cent of the public think that negative consequences of the net zero transition will be shared equally.
- Very few people expect their jobs to change as a result of climate change, and those that do, 57 per cent do not think their employer is preparing them with the right skills.
These are the headline results and a full analysis will be published by the BITC in January 2022. The final report will advise on the priorities for all UK businesses across all regions of the country, and will be used to create collaborative action projects to help deliver an equitable transition.
Creating a national and local framework for sustainability will not happen easily or quickly, and it requires strong support from government. But as the rise of severe weather events tells us, time is running out. Action is needed now.