Speaking at the CBI's Achieving Net-Zero conference, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn has highlighted the commitment of businesses to put their net-zero strategies into action.
Opening the CBI's first online conference this year, Carolyn then went on to detail the plans, the power and the action needed to meet the targets those strategies seek to achieve. All of which are detailed in the CBI's Green Recovery roadmap.
Welcome to the CBI’s first-ever online conference.
Like so many organisations, we are challenging ourselves to do things differently.
And we’re hugely grateful to our conference partners - National Grid, BT, Good Energy and Uniper – for their support. Each one a trailblazer on the climate challenge we all face, and all essential to our global ambitions for a net-zero future.
We have a brilliant line-up of speakers over the next two days, from the world of business, politics and beyond.
And our goal is simple. To ensure the pandemic leads to a redoubling of effort towards a net-zero future, and not a step back from it. And to get practical about what can be done right here, right now.
Because as we all know, action speaks a thousand times louder than words.
For so many, this feels like a world of fiercely competing goals.
We face two seemingly separate yet fundamental problems.
Covid-19 – the biggest health crisis in living memory. And climate change – the defining challenge of the modern era.
But look harder, they share many features in common. Both global in nature. Both disproportionately affecting the poorest in society. And both demanding urgent, coordinated action, nationally and internationally.
They are not really so separate after all.
How we respond to one affects success on the other.
And the real question for all of us – within our families and organisations and for our country – is how we can use this moment, what the Committee on Climate Change has identified as a turning point, to rebuild our economy, and the world we want to return to fairer, greener and – ultimately – stronger for the future.
THE POTENTIAL FOR ACTION
The commitment is there. Throughout the pandemic, the public’s focus on tackling climate change has stayed strong – surprisingly strong.
And every day, I talk to CEOs who are passionate about climate action. Whether in transport, where manufacturers like Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover are helping us switch to electric vehicles.
Housing, where insulation company Rockwool is retrofitting hundreds of homes, transforming inefficient 1960s high-rise blocks into heat-preserving, affordable housing.
Or in energy, with our world-famous Scotch Whiskey industry, identifying hydrogen as a technology that distillers can use instead of fossil fuels.
The numbers add up.
With investment in green tech and infrastructure helping to underwrite our recovery, creating jobs and industries for the future.
Recent World Wide Fund for Nature data shows the net-zero transition could generate at least 210,000 jobs in 2030 and over 350,000 in 2050.
And here the UK has a strong story to tell.
As the first major economy to establish a legally binding Net-Zero target. We’ve gone from total dependency on coal-powered electricity eight years ago to using none for weeks at a time.
And, crucially, the UK is in pole position to lead the world in green tech, like hydrogen and carbon capture and storage.
We have the science. The ambition. The expertise.
But the pandemic brings a new challenge.
Businesses fighting for survival. Rising government debt. Some say the answer is to retreat to the past. Play it safe. Focus on one step at a time.
But this country always does best when it leads from the front – business and government united and working in partnership.
And, as COP26 Chair and holder of the G7 presidency next year, the UK has a unique opportunity to prove itself a global climate leader post-Brexit.
Securing ambitious international commitments and actions and driving our own net-zero transition.
Today, the CBI is publishing its Green Recovery roadmap to help achieve this goal. Setting out what business needs from government right now to make the UK one of the best places in the world to develop green industries, infrastructure, and tech.
A PLAN FOR NET-ZERO
First, the UK has its net-zero target, now we need the blueprints from government to deliver it.
Business has been promised and is waiting for comprehensive national plans and strategies, including the Energy White Paper and National Infrastructure Strategy, as well as roadmaps for the decarbonisation of transport, heat, and buildings that will enable them to build with their net-zero investment plans with confidence.
This means action to establish ambitious and detailed targets and standards, alongside competitive well-regulated market by the end of the year, and ahead of COP26.
FAST-TRACKING A GREEN REVOLUTION
Second, we need to power this transition with a green infrastructure revolution.
Extending the government’s new ‘Project Speed’ taskforce – designed to fast track major UK building projects to bring the same urgency to strategically important low-carbon projects. Accelerating decisions and providing the certainty business needs to deliver next-generation infrastructure for electric vehicles, nuclear and renewables.
A DECISIVE AUTUMN
Then, finally, to make all of this possible, we need decisive action, and a Budget and Comprehensive Spending Review this autumn that prioritises bold decisions.
Building on the £3 billion already committed for public sector energy efficiency, decarbonising social housing, and grants for green homes.
To go faster and further on greening transport and heating. And help the UK lead the world in game-changing technologies such as hydrogen and carbon capture.
Our goal? Establishing a true competitive edge – as valuable to the UK as North Sea oil was in the 1980s. Entirely within our grasp.
So, let me end by saying this. Covid-19 is the most disruptive force many businesses have ever faced. Now, as we build our recovery – we have the chance to reset. Redoubling efforts to realise the UK’s net-zero ambitions.
The next two days are about how we do this.
Listening, challenging, and stealing the best ideas from our world-class speakers. Together we can lay the foundations for a strong, sustainable future, not just for the UK, but through our global leadership, beyond our shores as well.