Net Zero Festival Take-Aways

7th November 2023

Joanna Lumley speaks to James Murray at Net Zero Festival 2023

BusinessGreen’s Net Zero Festival was back again on 31 October and 1 November at London’s Business Design Centre, bringing together businesses, large and small, charities and civil society organisations to explore the challenges holding back the net zero transition in Britain and the wealth of opportunities if we accelerate progress. Here are some of our take-aways…

Business wants regulation

Counter to many prevailing narratives, businesses reiterated time and again that they want new policy and regulation from government to create a new level playing field and business certainty. It’s a message our client Cushon shared in a recent op-ed in BusinessGreen’s sister publication Professional Pensions.

The new UK net zero targets were on everyone’s lips

Speakers from across the business community and the political spectrum, including Alistair Campbell (Tony’s Blair’s former communications director) and Chris Skidmore MP (Conservative chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Environment) seem flummoxed by the recent changes to the government’s net zero plans – with many feeling like the UK is losing its hard-earned reputation for being a leader on the issue.

There’s concern about Labour policy

Labour’s £28bn commitment to the net zero transition has generated excitement and interest, however there’s fear that the policies underpinning it are being diluted. The decision not to commit to cancel the Rosebank oil and gas field project was raised as a concern by many speakers.

Show don’t tell

Promises and commitments without demonstrable achievements have run out of road. The world needs to be making significant progress on net zero already, not in ten years’ time. A point made by multiple panellists is that a business must at this point be able to demonstrate the impact of climate positive policies that it has already rolled out if it is to continue to have a right to speak on net zero and sustainability. And if a business is making some progress, it is equally important to humbly communicate where it is not.

Nature and biodiversity are rising up the agenda

Without nature, there is no soil, there is no water, there is no food, there is no life. Without nature, there is no business. While the business focus to date has been on carbon, a running theme at the festival was that business also needs to pay attention to its impact on biodiversity.

The UK is in the bottom 10% of countries with the most depleted biodiversity – thanks to industrialising earlier than any other nation. Businesses will quickly need to reckon with their impact on biodiversity and put in place strategies to end harmful practices and reverse damage they have caused.

Don’t forget “net zero” is a solution to climate disaster

Panellists, including among others Carbon Brief’s Leo Hickman, drew attention to neigh sayers of net zero seeking to disconnect debate around the net zero transition from climate change. Why? Because citizens want solutions to climate change. Net zero is that solution. In disconnecting it and fear mongering and dissembling about cost, vested interests are actively working to undermine the solution.

Speakers, including Futerra’s Solitaire Townsend and lawyer and activist Farhana Yamin, led the charge for communicators to reconnect discussions about the net zero transition to improved health, improved food security, better transport, cheaper energy, keeping communities safe from floods and storms, to demonstrate that the net zero transition is the solution to the climate emergency.

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