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Corporate Leaders Groups

Business leadership for a climate neutral economy
net zero transition

ScottishPower's Keith Anderson argues that the growing band of businesses and investors committed to accelerating the net zero transition need the government to submit a suitably ambitious national climate action plan to the UN

As 2020 draws to an end and we look forward optimistically to a path out of the pandemic, we can begin to see how the next year provides the launch pad for our journey to net zero. At ScottishPower we are going into 2021 committed to ramping up investment, with ambitious plans to double our renewable generation capacity, deliver the network infrastructure required and provide customers with 100 per cent clean power.

With £10bn of planned investment in the UK over the next five years, we'll be creating new jobs and supporting supply chains the length and breadth of the country. At the same time, we're committing ourselves to a Science Based Targets 1.5 degree emissions pathway across our value chain, driving the transition at pace across our businesses.

At ScottishPower we have the knowledge, tools and passion to help drive forward the race to zero. But if we want to release the full benefits of this transition and drive the uptake of new technology, support behaviour change and move at the pace climate science demands, then our ambition must be matched by an equally ambitious 2030 UK target, or Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in the language of the Paris Agreement. 

Setting a target to halve emissions by 2030 is what is required by the Race to Zero campaign for non-state actors, including business, in the lead-up to COP26. The equivalent ambition must be shared by industrialised countries like the UK. This means committing to a 2030 emissions reduction target of at least 70 per cent compared to the 1990 baseline.

There are businesses just like ScottishPower up and down the country ready to invest in low carbon technologies, integrate climate risks into decision-making and commit to 100 per cent renewably sourced energy. Just over 100 UK businesses have joined the Race to Zero campaign and more and more investors are aligning their portfolios with high levels of climate ambition. 

But more needs to be done to maximise the benefit of these commitments and we need to see action being taken by all sectors. The right NDC has the power to do this by aligning national ambition with business sector leadership. Under a green recovery plan, the UK's low carbon economy is predicted to be worth up to £600 billion by 2030. An ambitious NDC can not only unleash this potential but it would also meet the Paris Agreement objective to limit global warming temperatures to 1.5C and strengthen the UK's position as a leader in climate action. As hosts of COP26, the UK should be demonstrating this leadership and seizing the opportunity to showcase the talent, innovation and investment potential of UK businesses, when it comes to tackling climate change.   

An NDC with a target of 70 per cent by 2030 would be a clear signal to investors that the UK is ready to build back greener, and that it's happening now. Earlier this year ScottishPower set out our 10 Point Plan to deliver jobs and investment for green recovery, which showed that while we don't depend on government funding to make all this happen, we do need a clear plan from government to unlock the necessary investment, a plan that should start with an ambitious NDC.   

Right now the UK is working towards a 2030 target of reducing climate emissions by 57 per cent from 1990 levels, and as of 2018 we had achieved a 43.5 per cent reduction. We have started the journey to net zero and successfully decoupled emissions from economic growth faster than any other G20 nation. But now we must build on that foundation and commit to going further, faster. This level of ambition would not only inject real leadership in the build-up to COP26, but also reflect the high levels of public concern on climate change, something that has only grown stronger over the course of this challenging year.

We therefore need a strong, agenda-shaping NDC to build momentum behind the UK Government's commitment to a green recovery, release the benefits of private sector climate leadership and lay the foundation for a successful COP26. The right signal on 12 December will mean we can look forward to a 2021 defined by ambition, purpose and the momentum we must build for a better future, quicker.

Find out more about why Scottish Power and other members of the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group are calling on the UK government to set an ambitious emissions target for 2030

First published in BusinessGreen on 30 November 2020

About the author

Keith Anderson

As Chief Executive, Keith Anderson is a member of the Board of Directors and has responsibility for all ScottishPower businesses, the financial performance of the Company and the leadership of ScottishPower internally and externally.

Prior to his appointment as Chief Executive, Keith was CEO of ScottishPower Renewables and led Iberdrola’s international offshore business.

Prior to joining ScottishPower, Keith worked with some major financial institutions including The Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life, as well as working as a management consultant with E&Y.

Keith is an Honorary Fellow of the Energy Institute and a Visiting Professor of Strathclyde University.


Guest articles on the blog do not necessarily represent the views of, or endorsement by, the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership or the wider University of Cambridge.

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