From rhetoric to action: next steps for climate policy in the UK

11 March 2024 

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The UK has made significant progress in the 21st century towards transitioning away from fossil fuel production and towards renewable or sustainable alternatives. However, the journey is far from over, and the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill threatens to disrupt this progress just as major economies have agreed to transition away from fossil fuels at the latest edition of COP. 

Here we take a look at what the next steps could look like for UK climate policy following COP28, priorities for key stakeholders and the crucial role of ESG in achieving shared climate goals. 

COP28 agreement

Now the dust has settled after COP28, it is a good time to reflect on the agreements made and begin to put these into an action plan. Almost every nation in the world agreed on a pledge to ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels, marking the first time that a major deal has been agreed upon to eventually build a global economy without fossil fuels. 

The effectiveness of COP is consistently being questioned, with critics pointing to the failure to translate rhetoric to action, and a lack of ability to enforce climate commitments. For the governments and corporations of the world to disprove these critics, we must begin to see practical plans and meaningful climate policies that go beyond words and instead lead to action. 

UK climate plans for 2024 and beyond 

The UK has a raft of policies and strategies that aim to contribute to decarbonisation and adaptation. These plans aim to reform key sectors and will affect the operations of stakeholders and companies across agriculture, housing, power generation and more. 

Despite this plethora of strategies and plans, it is clear that the rate of change must be accelerated for the UK to achieve its climate goals and to show leadership on the international stage. Despite vast progress in some key areas (domestic emissions have fallen to 45% below 1990 levels), there is a long way to go to achieving a net zero economy as for example, around 80% of energy consumed in the UK still comes from oil and gas. 

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has stated that the COP28 ‘transition away’ agreement must lead to meaningful change on climate action in the UK. This follows their findings in June 2023, where the Committee identified a “significant delivery gap” in the UK’s ambition of reducing emissions by 68% by 2030, that is outlined in the UK’s 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). 

(NDC’s are country-specific, self-determined commitments that specify a plan for climate adaptation and mitigation.)

Whilst the UK has an extensive package of climate policies, some have noted slowed progress towards net zero objectives in recent months. Rishi Sunak’s net zero rollbacks announced in September 2023 raised concerns for the UK’s future climate roadmap. Labour have also recently watered down their £28 billion green investment pledge, if they were to get into government at the next general election. 

Collaboration across government, industry and beyond is necessary to provide adequate incentives and keep stakeholders on track for a net zero economy. 

The role of investors and lenders 

To show leadership on climate action, the UK must not only commit to effective planning and economic diversification, but also tap into the benefits of ESG. It was acknowledged at COP28 negotiations that finance and ESG will play a crucial role in global climate action. The path that the private sector takes will be hugely influential in whether the UK and other countries around the world reach their climate ambitions. 

Huge investments are needed to grow renewable industries such as wind and solar, and to drive pioneering technological advancements that will support the climate transition. ESG reporting allows investors to determine which projects and companies are serious about their environmental impacts, so they can allocate funds and capital accordingly. 

Investors and lenders who increasingly consider ESG impacts may influence companies and landowners to take additional measures to support climate adaptation and mitigation. Aside from the financial considerations, companies and landowners may be influenced by the potential benefits of risk mitigation, enhanced market access and improved reputation that may be realised if they receive investment that can support their climate-friendly policies and actions. 

The tide is turning on climate action; get in touch with our team to see how we can support your company through the transition. 

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