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UK government must connect industry and policy with near-term targets to deliver net zero

(London, 05 July 2022) – Last week, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) reported that the ambition and high-level strategy to achieve net zero emissions from UK government is in place, but while some issues are moving faster than expected, such as decarbonisation of power generation and large industrial cluster initiatives, policy is lacking.

The CCC Progress Report is largely focused on the domestic, agriculture, and real estate sectors, and a new framework to measure government performance. Yet, as Alfa Energy points out, businesses play a major part in achieving net zero and should continue with energy efficiency and other decarbonisation initiatives which so far have gone further than any government action to date.

The message from the report is that the UK has set targets for net zero, but has not met them. “The problem is that no one is asking why?”, claims Dr Seyed Ebrahimi, Principal Consultant of Sustainability Operations at Alfa Energy Group.

“While real action from government is needed to kick start a candid drive to net zero, many organisations are getting on with decarbonisation,” says Ebrahimi.

“Taking from the report the real estate sector as an example, our construction clients are already working towards SBTi accredited net zero strategies, not only addressing scope 1 and 2 emissions, but also scope 3 emissions covering the most challenging area of them all, their supply chains.”

What is clear is the strategy to achieve net zero for each business operation is very different.

As Ebrahimi points out: “There is a difference in sector needs, and within sectors between the larger and smaller organisations, so any frameworks must address that. A lot of legislation is aimed at larger companies, but 99.9% of companies in the UK are SMEs, so what’s going to happen to them? The SMEs will have their own unique capital and operational challenges when decarbonising and will therefore need to be treated very differently to the larger listed corporates.”

Ebrahimi argues that a lack of direction from government and sector associations is causing significant confusion. Ebrahimi sees a need for short- and medium-term milestones, driven through a greater onus on sector associations to deliver scalable sector specific frameworks.

The confusion combined with delays in government action is causing some businesses to pause, what Ebrahimi calls “a wait and see approach”.

Ebrahimi added: “In some areas we are seeing far too much off-setting taking place, rather than real action to reduce emissions. While off-setting has a place, it is what you do once all other avenues have been exhausted. This can be seen as green washing, which will have a negative impact on an organisation’s reputation and contractability.”

While the CCC now has a framework for measuring government progress in delivering net zero, industry needs tools to capture and manage complex supply chain data, in order to report into government to evidence progress.

“There are various software systems and technologies available to support reporting into any voluntary or mandatory initiatives, but it is important to choose a system that supports your unique requirements, is flexible and scalable. Choosing the wrong system could prove costly”, states Ebrahimi.

Instead of waiting for the government to catch up, many businesses are already reporting voluntarily, but this comes with a stark warning from Ebrahimi:

“With the myriad of carbon reporting schemes available, I always recommend a gap analysis to ensure the right ones are put in place. Not all schemes are right for all organisations and choosing the wrong scheme could set you down the wrong path and hinder progress.”

Many forward-thinking businesses are already working towards net zero. They are not treating decarbonisation as a cost, but a way to become more efficient and better at what they do. These bright stars are going through a transformational process to function more effectively, recognising the performance benefits, avoiding being left with stranded assets once policy does bite while at the same time creating sustainable growth.

“It’s best to get ahead of the inevitable”, according to Ebrahimi. “The UK government will soon catch up. Short-term measures to meet net zero targets will be imposed and will suddenly become more onerous.”

This is a promoted article.

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