Key takeaways from the Annual Westminster Energy Forum

Carbon Credentials recently attended the Westminster Energy Forum (WEF) hosted by CMS Cameron McKenna. The theme of the Annual Review of UK Energy, Climate & Sustainability Policy this year was ‘Challenges Ahead for the UK in a Global Context’.

We heard from the Head of International Energy at BEIS, Dan Dorner, who reminded us that the time for action is now:

“Every year we do not take action, we are borrowing from our future”

Despite a downward trend over recent years, global emissions increased last year. The share of fossil fuels that makes up the world’s energy use is still over 80% and has not moved since COP1.

Dan touched on the UK’s new legally binding net-zero by 2050 commitment: the difference between an 80% target and net-zero target by 2050 equates to 0.001˚C decrease in global temperature, reflecting the need for more countries to follow suit.

Mitigation vs adaptation

As businesses look to set ambitious targets to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, many are choosing science-based targets to do so. A key part of setting robust, ambitious targets is to understand how your business can adapt to a 1.5- or 2-degree warming scenario. Whilst BEIS does provide an outlook of the future of global energy, none of these are temperature related.

Companies are struggling to plan for the future as there is no clear position from the government on how energy markets and the economy will change under different warming scenarios. For example, the uncertainties around the cost of fuel, the infrastructure for travel, communications and other essential services.

1.5 vs 2 vs 4˚C

The Head of Adaptation at Committee on Climate Change, Kathryn Brown shared insight into trends in business planning. Most companies currently look at a 1.5˚C vs 2˚C warming scenario when conducting scenario analysis. However, the Committee on Climate Change would like to see companies refining their analysis to also include a 4˚C warming scenario. Whilst there is not a big difference in the effects of climate change between a 2˚C vs 4˚C warming scenario up to 2050, the effects become considerable beyond this point.

Under a 2˚C scenario, the UK would see a sea-level rise of 1 metre. We also expect to see a 13% decrease in GDP. The graphic below summarises the differences between a 1.5˚C and 2˚C world and why keeping well below 2˚C is so vital.

The Science: Comparing the Impact of 1.5˚C and 2˚C Global Warming

Looking ahead

The UK looks set to host the 2020 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in partnership with Italy, a milestone many consider to be the deadline for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

It is hoped that as the government begins to roll out plans to meet its net-zero commitment, a growing number of businesses will join the effort of mitigating climate change by reducing their own emissions. However, before this can occur on a wide enough scale to truly have an impact, the majority of companies must first evaluate how their operations are due to be affected. Businesses must assess their vulnerability to a changing climate in order to come to grips with climate-related risk. It is through this subsequent understanding that they would be able to enhance their resilience by strategizing ways to lessen the impact on their supply chains, products and bottom lines.  Doing so is in their own long-term self-interest.

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