The UK is committed to becoming a net zero economy by 2050 and there are a lot of similar targets out there for countries all over the world, so it’s pretty clear businesses are going to need to come up with ways to massively reduce green house gas emissions over the coming decades. Despite this, a YouGov survey from July 2019 revealed that almost a third (31%) of businesses say they have no plans to be net carbon neutral at all. The same study showed that the vast majority (92%) of people surveyed believed that the climate is changing and that humans are at least somewhat responsible, so why don’t these businesses have a plan?
One of the barriers may be not knowing how to write a plan, so we thought we’d give you a peak behind the curtain and show you how we prepare Net Zero Strategies here at Energise. We’ll lay out what your strategy needs to cover and then give you the framework for your pathway to net zero.
WHAT YOUR STRATEGY NEEDS TO COVER
Before you start on the structure of your strategy it’s important to begin with an understanding of what the strategy needs to achieve. We think the best place to look for this is the Paris Agreement - if the guidance there is good enough for nations across the world it should be possible to apply it to any business, charity or other organisation. With that in mind, there are 8 things you need to consider in making sure your strategy aligns with the Paris Agreement:
1. Net Zero emissions
2. Strengthen commitments every five years
3. Attach a meaningful cost to carbon
4. New and additional investment in climate change solutions
5. Transparency and accountability
6. Commit to the highest end of ambition
7. Adapt to build resilient economies & communities
8. Take action now
That’s what you’ll need to cover, so let’s move on to the structure. What is the pathway to Net Zero?
“It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data.” Sherlock Holmes
Your Pathway to Net Zero starts with data. Reviewing and calculating your carbon footprint is the first step to getting control of it and you may be closer than you think:
- Is your company involved in Streamlined Energy & Carbon Reporting (SECR)? If so, your review stage can be pretty much covered by the greenhouse gas report prepared as part of that.
- Maybe your company has complied with the Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS)? In that case you’ll have some form of total energy usage report and with a few factors applied, this can be scaled up into a carbon report.
Even for those starting from scratch there’s a lot of guidance available out there, or feel free to get in touch for information or assistance.
Next, and before looking into renewables, clean technology and environmental investment, you’ll want to reduce as much of your energy use as possible. Preventing emissions at the source will be much more effective in achieving Net Zero than just offsetting it, for example. You’ve already undertaken the review stage so should know where to focus at this point. Whether your energy use is in offices, transportation, complex industrial processes or all of the above, you’ll need to assess these “emitters” and find ways to reduce usage. Reductions could take the form of retrofit projects, upgrades, operational changes, engagement programmes or a host of other options. Looking back to the 8 points we laid out in the beginning you will need to invest in the solutions and be ambitious.
If you need some help getting to grips with what your reduce projects might be, get in touch and talk it through with one of our team.
“We really need to kick the carbon habit and stop making our energy from burning things.” David Attenborough
The renew stage is more than just solar panels. Yes, you’ll want to consider what renewable opportunities you have at your sites but there are a lot of other ways to shift to cleaner technology that need to be considered as well. Switching diesel or petrol vehicles to electric, for example, would significantly reduce your carbon footprint straight away, and are also an investment in the future. As the national grid continues to decarbonise the same miles in an electric vehicle today will cause less emissions in the future. Maybe a biomass boiler would work for you or joining a district heating network? As with reduce, be ambitious and invest in the right technology.
And that’s not all. Choosing your tariff can be one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon impact. The more supplies that move over to renewable-only tariffs, the more renewable technology that will be connected into the national grid. As a business you may not have acres of land to build wind turbines on, but you can still have an impact based on where you spend your money.
If you think renewables might be the right direction for you, get in touch to discuss our renewables feasibility surveys.
Carbon offsetting gets a bit of a mixed reception and we certainly don’t think that it’s the only thing businesses should be doing, but that’s why it’s the final step. If you’ve made every reasonable effort to reduce your energy use, shift over to renewable and cleaner technology, you’re still likely to have a carbon footprint. At this point you should look at rebalancing what is left through investing in clean development, energy projects and gold standard (or UN verified) environmental projects. The other perk here is that these sorts of projects generally have a wider positive impact than the environmental factor. Depending on the project they can provide much needed employment, health improvement, biodiversity and broad social benefits to impoverished communities.
If you’re interested in Rebalancing your carbon footprint, get in touch to discuss how we can support you.
Hopefully, all of the above isn’t too abstract and you’ll be able to start your NET Zero journey, but we want to help you out a little more. We’ve launched a sustainability toolkit that has a free of charge ‘Empower’ membership level. It’s all on our Net Zero Hub and on that account you will be able to:
- access the Sustainability Toolkit (inc. our open source strategy framework)
- check out our Sector Guides outlining key Net Zero considerations per sector
- access “Trusted”, our solutions library where you review technologies and/or suppliers
- “Ask an Expert” where you can ask our team questions (more complex ones may be chargeable, but will always be agreed with you in advance)
- review the Knowledgebase where you can find insight into your Net Zero pathway
- take the Energise Index and score your current approach out of 100
- use our Reduce & Renew module where you can track your Net Zero projects
- take part in the Forum and discuss successes and challenges with other Net Zero colleagues
So, there’s the Energise method and a host of tools to help you out, so get writing that strategy!
Jack Waring started his Energy and Carbon career seven years ago as a data analyst for a utility provider and over the years has worked his way up to Head of Energy Engineering at Energise. You read more about Jack in our Spotlight on Jack Waring blog.