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The New Statesman - Energy & Climate Change Conference 2024

Financing Net Zero

Themes across the room today were consistent. Energy, transportation, real estate/homes, financing the net zero transition, hearing views from across UK government ministries and government departments was exciting. There is clearly more acceleration taking place from around 8-10 years ago, when this one topic might have appeared as one agenda item for 45 minutes. Now we see such catalysing momentum behind solving these problems.

The New Statesmen Energy and Climate conference was a great opportunity to connect with different policy experts on the real current state of sustainability in the UK. The key points were promising, because we see more non partisan behaviour, which is not divisive. The pace of change requires significant improvement. I think that consensus was broadly shared. The UK Committee on Climate Change had not long ago issued a clear analysis that progression has been lacking.
1.5 degrees is a scientific necessity, not a political target. This was the Stockholm Institutes latest update attempting to focus on priorities. The role of technology in the sustainable transition, is to act as a scientific, mechanical, industry and government led, supported by finance, orchestrally. Governments independently cannot be the conductor alone. We must have G20 collaboration on minimum standards for what Net Zero translates into, as an economic, financial and social theory. The UK Government has done well in implementing a world leading Climate Change Act, and then a legally binding Net Zero target. I wonder what the legal consequences will be for the ministers of the day that fail on that agenda.

Despite clear rumbling in the audience that we’re not going quick enough – particularly that the energy sector is not transitioning at pace and scale – indications are the sector continues to leap further than they themselves had sceptically forecast. Needless to say, renewable energy is possibly the clearest success story. As battery technology and electric mobility follow suit, it’s clear housing (20% of the UK’s country emissions, source), cooperation across the private, public and financial sectors must rapidly get behind what will be looked back at as a new industrialisation.

Today it felt remiss the UK did not focus on agriculture, which presents and equally similar quick win. Undoubtedly the journey to 2030 will bring to life more discourse on emissions related calculations. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol, Lifecycle Analysis, ISO standards, and of course the various interpretations of these frameworks and standards is a minefield of ambiguity to new groups. Ownership of territorial emissions from imports, and facilitated through exports can be resolved through strong advice based change.