How UK Businesses are Fighting against Climate Change
Earlier in April, a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that, if the world hopes to avoid the worst possible consequences of climate change, it’s ‘now or never’. Emissions must begin to decline worldwide if heating above 1.5C is to be avoided.
The world, according to the report’s authors, is not shifting quickly enough to a low-carbon economy. So, what exactly has UK business been doing? And can this transition be accelerated?
Who are the Culprits?
Some sectors are more heavily polluting than others. Unfortunately, these are fairly major players. Before the pandemic, the heaviest air polluters were transport and manufacturing. Since the entire economy is reliant on these sectors, we’re all connected.
Any business activity that consumes energy is contributing to climate change. According to the Office for National Statistics, around 195 million tonnes of oil equivalent were used for energy in the UK in 2019, of which 88% came from fossil fuels. This is a reduction from around 99% in 1990.
What about greenhouse gas emissions? The ONS says that it’s manufacturing, electricity, transport and storage, and households who are the biggest contributors. Some of these, like manufacturing, have seen a protracted reduction in emissions over the past few years. Others have been steadier.
What is being done?
The actions business takes to reduce emissions will depend on the sector in question. In some cases, the solution to reducing air pollution is a technological one. In others, it’s more to do with procedures and activities.
In the case of transport, the shift is coming in the form of a transition to electric vehicles, which is mostly a story of battery efficiency. Battery production, as it stands, is environmentally costly – and batteries will need to be more efficient for the trade-off to be worth scrapping existing internal-combustion-engine vehicles en-masse.
Manufacturers face a different challenge. Taylors of Harrogate, a Yorkshire-based tea manufacturer, have achieved carbon neutrality by measuring their carbon emissions at every stage of manufacturing and contributing to overseas tree-planting initiatives. They’ve announced that their operations are carbon-neutral.
Gas and electricity firms have shown signs of significant progress over the last decade, with emissions from the sector almost halving over the last ten years. Natural gas, while far from renewable, is less polluting than coal – and thus represents a viable means of transitioning away from fossil fuels. The ideal, naturally, is an energy supply that doesn’t produce any emissions whatsoever.
In some cases, it’s impossible for a business to operate without producing at least some carbon at some point along the supply chain. This is where carbon offsetting comes in. This can be done by either removing the CO2 from the atmosphere or by preventing it from being released in the first place. By contributing to projects that achieve this, UK businesses can reduce their net impact on the climate.