Race to Net Zero starts with a Plan - David Brayne
I’ve been on this planet for a short 50 years; I’ve been consciously caring and working for its protection for just over thirty of those. Although I must admit my commitment has wavered, depending on my personal priorities and that’s OK. This isn’t about guilt but is about responsibility. As a race, we’ve been polluting our environment since the first “poop” but it’s the rate and extent of damage, since industrialisation, that has tipped the balance. My journey into environmental protection started with learning about the Alkali Act of 1863 and we’ve made positive progress in the developed world ever since. But it’s still taken just over 50 more years, in my opinion, to build the groundswell of support and scientific proof to establish significant global and governmental commitment to do something much more tangible about climate change. This is just one of the issues that face our sustainable future which is now termed Net Zero.
Net Zero ambitions essentially set targets to reduce our impact on climate change through global warming by reducing emissions (Not just Carbon Dioxide) that contribute to atmospheric warming and then mitigating emissions, through carbon capture, both naturally and synthetically. The science-based target is to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C, this is what is deemed possible in our lifetimes. Now is the right time to do something about your impact, you are not alone, and you will not lose out by stepping up, but there are consequences to missing these opportunities.
Big corporates have often led the way by having the resources and the influence to make big changes but equally the power and impact of the incremental cumulative changes of SME’s can and will be a significant force for good. UK business and industry account for 25% of UK territorial emissions, about half of these emissions are from SMEs. The changes needed don’t have to be costly or disadvantageous competitively, in fact, most of what an SME can do will be of immediate financial, organisational, and motivational advantage. Not doing something will be the downfall.
We have all seen that during the pandemic our priorities have changed, our ways of working and just basic living can be impacted hugely. It made us all very aware of our fragile existence and reliance on the supply chains that support our ways of life. It has, without doubt raised the profile of our impact aided by the Attenborough effect, postponed COP26, on-line working, home schooling, social isolation, extreme heat events, wild-fires, droughts and floods. The pandemic has also taught us that to change things is a) possible b) advantageous c) sustainable, so let’s seize this opportunity.
As with all change, the first steps are about education, the facts, and the methods. This brings motivation and commitment to change. To support facts you need information, measurement of your own impact and that of your supply chain and if you want to go the “complete cucumber”, impacts on your users or customers and what happens to your products at the end of their life. Setting targets must be scientific or at the very least a mathematical endeavour. It’s about energy and emissions, it’s about resources, it’s about technology and it’s about behaviour. There is more we can do above and beyond our Net Zero ambitions such as commitments to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and we should do more.
As with all actions of this nature, a plan helps make it accessible, understandable, and do-able. It also helps communicate your commitment, attracts, and retains the right talent, the suitable partners and the innovative collaborators, suppliers, and distributors. It’s a positive act with admirable ethics and responsible intentions with wholly beneficial outcomes. In the face of adversity, positivity breeds positivity.
Through the support that RTC North and its specialists bring to their SME clients, with a variety of business support activities, we hope we are playing our part to enhance the post-pandemic recovery and lead to a Net Zero future.
David Brayne BSc(Hons) DAS MSc, MIEMA, C.Env.