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How businesses can respond to the increasing prominence of climate change issues

The first month of the year has barely passed, but 2021 has already been filled with news of climate change-related news.

The Prince of Wales recently launched his Terra Carta, building on his Sustainable Markets Initiative launched last year. Another reminder about the impact of our actions on the planet and the legacy this leaves for generations to come, the Terra Carta is a proposition providing a route towards sustainability for businesses leaders across the globe.

The Government has had some announcements of its own such as the £213 million government investment for the upgrade of UK science facilities to enable researchers to respond to global challenges such as COVID-19 and climate change. As part of this, London will receive funding for airborne sensors to monitor greenhouse gas emissions. This is in addition to measures unveiled last year including an Energy White Paper, The Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution and the creation of the UK’s first Green Bond. The sufficiency of these initiatives in tackling the climate change and the possible effects have been debated.

In the latest move which might signal a serious commitment by the UK Government to tackling climate change, Alok Sharma has been replaced as Business Secretary by Kwesi Kwarteng. Sharma, who is now full-time president of COP26, the UN climate change summit taking place this year, had previously handled responsibility for COP26 alongside his role as Business Secretary. Although this move had been urged in recent weeks, it is believed that the Prime Minister had initially wanted former Prime Minister David Cameron to take over the leading talks, suggesting the weight attached to the summit. The UK which is hosting the Summit this year aims to convince countries globally to set a date for reaching net zero emissions and new climate targets for 2030, presenting an opportunity for post-Brexit UK to define its global role.

The increasing prominence of the climate change agenda means that UK businesses ought to be alert to relevant issues and the impact that incoming changes will have on them. Beyond the question of how businesses can support climate change aims and help with the transition towards sustainability, is the issue of the challenges and opportunities that are presented by changes already taking place. Training and re-training staff to effectively transition to zero carbon will be necessary across various industries. Businesses reliant on the energy sector will also need to heed and prepare for expected changes as the government seeks to boost competition in the energy retail market in the shift away from fossil fuels. The transport, aviation and construction sectors will also be affected by the push towards cutting carbon emissions. Directing their minds towards the potential effects climate change measures being introduced will have across a wide range of issues will enable businesses to adequately prepare for challenges and maximise opportunities.

Furthermore, businesses may find it beneficial to engage with relevant policymakers and stakeholders on proposed policies and changes. By making their views known on how proposed policies will affect them, they stand the chance of being able to shape outcomes of government proposals, highlight the industry view and articulate how their businesses would be particularly affected. Announcements on initiatives and policy changes are usually accompanied by a consultation. Government departments also periodically seek views on various issues, Select Committees in Parliament hold inquiries, and stakeholder groups also request feedback from businesses. For instance, the Government is currently seeking views on the growth of UK clean energy exports and the industry’s approach to how renewable technologies.

LCCI produces a bi-weekly briefing on legislative and regulatory issues which businesses may find useful for keeping informed on government announcements and consultations.

Feedback from businesses on issues affecting them is also welcome.

Please contact policy@londonchamber.co.uk for further information.