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It is time to do things differently: Learnings from Day 1 of the CBI ‘Net Zero Conference’

The CBI’s Net Zero conference – the first one online in its history – kicked off in fine style yesterday and here are a few snippets of what we learned.

1) Government needs to act now

There is huge potential out there for action, but the old rules still have significant sway over how we behave. So many of the UK’s top companies are committed and ready to take control of this agenda – and now the Government needs to follow through.

As Dame Caroline Fairburn said – how can we use this moment to ‘rebuild our economy and the world we want to return to, greener and – ultimately – stronger for the future’?

This autumn we need to build on the £3billion already secured for public sector energy efficiency, decarbonising social housing, and grants for green homes.

But we must get ahead of the curve on greening transport and heating, helping us be world beaters in technologies such as hydrogen and carbon capture.

To help this come to fruition we need Govt to launch the long-awaited Energy White Paper – this is set to be launched this Oct after and will set aside the regulations, the national roadmap and a national plan for private organisations to follow.  

2) The numbers add up – both financially and environmentally

According to recent World Wide Fund for Nature data, the net-zero transition could generate at least 210,000 jobs in 2030 and over 350,000 in 2050. The UK is in pole position to make these kinds of figures even greater across the board and the economic impact of could potentially be the bedrock of a longer-term upturn.

After all, we have led the way as the first major economy to have a legally binding Net-Zero target and have gone from coal-powered electricity as the main power source less than a decade ago to using none for weeks at a time.

This has also been a long-term part of our strategy. Thinking back to the 1980s with dependency on the North Sea Oil, today the UK has a true competitive edge as its proven its worth with windpower.

For example, 10 years ago, the price of offshore wind was £150 per megawatt and now it’s down to £39. Therefore, we are ready and can now set further goals and visualise further decarbonising of the UK economy by looking at hydrogen, carbon capture storage, EV or battery storage and solar.

We have the opportunity to be a breakthrough nation and benefit hugely in the long-term.

3) People are the make or break point for success

Day One of the conference also made us reflect on our offshore wind and oil and gas experience, where the majority or renewables skills and windpower technology came from fossil fuels.

Now we can look at the skills in renewables and steer this expertise towards the new emerging energy markets – from this conference and the wider landscape shows that hydrogen in particular is a growth market. The UK needs to challenge itself on building hydrogen ready boilers and replace more than 26 million gas boilers in our homes across the country.

As ever, our universities will play a huge part in this R&D and skills process both locally and further afield. After all, we have four of the top universities in the UK globally, once again pioneering.

Talent for this change will first come predominately from the UK and second, from its partners, possibly G7 and B7 organisations which we have 14 months to get our house into order as COP26 is set to arrive in Glasgow Nov 2021.

Surya is well set to support businesses in this important moment as the UK will have the regulations and targets set by the public sector and the private investment incentivised and ready to encourage a huge green job creation drive.

Day Two already underway and we’re looking forward on reporting back!


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This post was written by sarahrice

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