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Corporate Leaders Groups

Business leadership for a climate neutral economy

23 June 2021 – A new report from the UK Corporate Leaders Group (CLG UK) sets out steps for how business and government can work together to bridge the gap between present action and necessary ambition.

Read the report 

The new report builds on analysis taken by CISL’s Centre for Policy and Industrial Transformation that examines the progress that has been made towards reducing emissions in four key sectors: power and energy, built environment, road transport, and agriculture and land use.

The analysis from CISL highlighted how:

  • With the notable exception of power, climate action remains too slow, with most sectors showing only small reductions and still contributing significant emissions.
  • The scale of action by UK businesses is impressive, with a significant increase in commitments over the last year or so. However, the current level of ambition and commitment from business is not yet enough to deliver a resilient, net zero future.

While plans are emerging for all sectors, there are significant steps the UK government can take, even in the power sector, to accelerate emissions reductions and support business implementation. Using insights from the CISL briefing paper, CLG UK provide recommendations for how business and government can work together to bridge the gap between present action and necessary ambition.

Key findings of the report

For government, there is a need to introduce and strengthen strategies for each of the key sectors if it is to deliver on its climate goals:

  • Economy wide: Bring forward an ambitious Net Zero Strategy that translates its economy-wide goals into clear policies and measures able to drive delivery across the economy. Develop a long-term strategy for engaging UK businesses in undertaking net zero actions that includes targeted engagement of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by sector.
  • Power: Raise the ambition of the already promising plans put forward in 2020 so they are compatible with the 2050 net zero target, support the electrification of the wider economy and invest in infrastructure.
  • Road transport: Ensure the Transport Decarbonisation Plan sets out actions across government to deliver on increased active travel and public transport and an accelerated roll-out of electric vehicles, including buses and heavy goods vehicles, and implement measures that increase private and public investment in the sector.
  • Buildings: Deliver a new Heat and Buildings Strategy with concrete, long-term policy measures to significantly increase ambition in this key sector, specifically by raising standards, accelerating implementation and delivering longer term energy efficiency incentives.
  • Agriculture and land use: Build on the Agriculture Act (2020) and Environment Bill to provide a decarbonisation strategy for the sector, backed with a comprehensive and funded action plan. Implement Environmental Land Management as soon as possible. 

For business there are a number of actions they can take and initiatives supporting those actions that they can join, signalling their support for wider change:

  • For all companies across the economy: Join Race to Zero and set ambitious emissions goals and plans to achieve them. Provide low carbon goods and services and work with others to drive wider change, including through shaping policy and supporting smaller businesses in their supply chains.
  • To help transform the power sector: Minimise energy consumption and commit to meeting their energy demand from zero carbon sources as far as possible potentially as part of groups like the RE100 initiative. Also investing in infrastructure aligned with the energy transition and supporting customers to be more energy efficient.
  • To shift road transport: Switch fleet vehicles to electric and ask suppliers to do the same, potentially as part of the EV100 initiative. Advocate a faster transition to electric vehicles and support more remote working, active transport and the use of public transport for workers and customers.
  • To improve UK buildings: Ensure all new buildings, and new and existing commercial buildings, are net zero carbon in operation by 2030 at the latest and cut carbon embodied in building construction and materials. Support stronger policies to drive change in the sector and help smaller businesses in the sector to act.
  • To prompt change in agriculture and land use: Help develop aligned sectoral leadership from business across the sector in support of the actions required to achieve net zero goals. Land owners should improve land management, while farmers and companies sourcing from agriculture should accelerate the transition to low carbon farming practices. Business should support demand for sustainably farmed, low carbon products and work with farmers to advocate sustainable land use policies.

 

Citing this report:

Please refer to this publication as: University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). (2021). Bridging the Gap: UK business and policy leadership for net zero. Cambridge, UK: CLG UK.


Read the CISL analysis this report builds its recommendations from.

Read more about UK business in the SBTi Business Ambition for 1.5 campaign

Read the business case studies that illustrate what businesses have been doing to facilitate progress. 

Authors and acknowledgements

This report was prepared by Sanna Markkanen, Bruce Horton, Beverley Cornaby and Eliot Whittington, with support from Serena Liuni and Isabelle Cross.

We would like to acknowledge Corporate Leaders Group UK members, CISL colleagues and external reviewers for their constructive comments and feedback on this report.
We would also like to thank our case study companies for their inputs.

Citing this report

University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). (2021). Bridging the gap: UK business and policy leadership for net zero. Cambridge, UK: CLG UK.

Disclaimer

The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CLG, CISL, the wider University of Cambridge, or clients.