A group of businesses and investors have written to UK Prime MInister Theresa May, urging her to raise the country’s ambitions to tackle climate change and increase her leadership of the UK “towards a stronger, more prosperous, and more sustainable future for its people and the economy.”
Signed by groups which collectively represent thousands of companies with hundreds of billions in revenue, and hundreds of investors managing assets worth more than £19 trillion, the letter is a clarion call from the UK business sector that a transition to a low-carbon economy is the only way forward. “The UK has an opportunity to be part of a new, zero-carbon economy,” the authors of the letter wrote (PDF), “a market worth $5.5 trillion in 2012 and growing at over 3% per year.” The letter was orchestrated by The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, and co-signed by IEMA, UK Green Building Council, techUK, Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, RenewableUK, and the Environmental Industries Commission.
“The government may have a lot on their plate with Brexit negotiations, but answers around how the UK’s economy will evolve and modernise through the next decade are long overdue,” said Jill Duggan, Director of The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group. “Now is the time to display the vision, innovation and leadership needed to help UK industry transition to a low carbon economy.”
While the UK is sometimes held up as a leader in the global transition to a low-carbon economy, the last 18 months have been filled with uncertainty and lackluster policy, which has left the country floundering, and its climate and energy targets slowly slipping away. Just last month, the UK Government’s own Committee on Climate Change (CCC) warned that the current lack of government action on climate change is putting the country’s transition to a resilient, low-carbon economy in danger.
“The impact of climate change on our lives and those of our children is clearer than ever,” said CCC Chairman, Lord Deben in late June. “The UK has shown global leadership on climate change, but progress will stall at home without urgent further action. New plans, for a new Parliament, are needed as a matter of urgency to meet our legal commitments, grasp the opportunities offered by the global low-carbon transition, and protect people, businesses and the environment from the impacts of a changing climate.”
“The built environment is crucial to achieving our climate targets, yet the Committee on Climate Change recently demonstrated that without stronger policies, we will remain off-track,” said Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive, UK Green Building Council this week. “The good news is that carbon reductions in our homes, buildings and infrastructure can offer multiple social benefits – health, jobs and consumer bills. Smart regulation and policy can unlock these benefits and provide tremendous commercial opportunities at just the right time for UK Plc.”
It is no surprise, then, that this new letter urging leadership and government commitments has arrived, bringing with it the weight of thousands of companies and trillions in assets managed. The authors and signatories duly praise the work done but urge greater efforts be made. Specifically, the signatories “would like to support” Theresa May and the UK Government in three specific areas: bringing forward plans for emissions reductions, intended to deliver political certainty as to how the UK plans to meet its commitments under its own Climate Change Act and the Paris Climate Agreement; Working further with the European Union to deliver global emissions reductions, a not-so-subtle reminder that a “hard Brexit” could have dire consequences for such; and “Building on the UK’s strong history of international leadership on climate change.”
“It’s vital the UK Government embeds within its industrial strategy and the clean growth plan a detailed and ambitious policy framework for climate action to 2030 focused on three critical sectors – power generation, buildings/heating and road transport,” added Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Changesaid. “Clarity and ambition to 2050 – at home and in partnership with other key nations – is also essential if the UK wants to persuade pension funds and other major asset managers to mobilise the hundreds of billions in long-term capital required to ensure the UK can meet the targets set out under the Paris Agreement.”
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