What Is the UK Doing About Climate Change?
As a country, we’ve recently experienced some of our most telling indicators to date of the impact of climate change.
In 2022, there was 6% less average rainfall than in previous years, with increased heavy rainfall that can be attributed to climate change.
Additionally, 2022 was a record-warm year for the UK – yet another sign that climate change is directly affecting our planet – and will continue to do so without our direct intervention.
Governments, businesses, and the general public must align our efforts and work toward fighting climate change.
With over 30 years of experience, Clade Engineering the UK’s leading manufacturer of commercial heat pumps has made decarbonisation one of their top focal points in their business practice.
Company Chief Markets Officer, Tim Rook, explores the current state of climate change efforts from British businesses in more detail.
Climate change is one of the biggest environmental issues we face today, with governments, organisations, and communities actively working together to fight its lasting impact.
Recently, however, the British government’s independent advisers, the Climate Change Committee, labeled the country’s own efforts as “worryingly slow”.
What is the UK government doing to fight climate change?
In the war against climate change, progress has been undeniably slow.
Governments and corporations have been slow to take responsibility and affirmative action, which has led us to where we are now, with irreversible damage done to our planet.
Here are some key actions and initiatives that the UK was undertaking to combat climate change:
#1 Net-Zero by 2050
In 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass a law committing to reaching net-zero by 2050. This ambitious target aims to reduce emissions from sectors such as transportation, energy, and agriculture.
This is a tall order, considering how much damage has already been done and how much of our ecosystem currently relies on fossil fuels and processes that produce carbon emissions.
That said, plans for achieving these goals are far from complete, let alone effective. The biggest critique of the UK government’s climate change plan is a lack of detail relating to our proposed efforts to reach said goals.
Even after revisions and a new strategy, there are still some holes in the plan.
#2 Renewable energy
The UK has been investing in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. Offshore wind farms have been a particular focus, with the goal of increasing capacity significantly.
Additionally, commercial heat pumps are now being installed in various buildings across the UK.
Since traditional heating accounts for 18% of greenhouse emissions in the UK, shifting to efficient air-source heat pumps – and enacting laws requiring commercial buildings to use these – is making a difference.
A heat pump is a renewable, ‘green energy’, alternative to a boiler. Air-source heat pumps and ground-source heat pumps extract heat from the air or ground in order to heat your home. They have the potential to both reduce your environmental impact and lower your fuel bills.
There’s no denying that the UK is making an effort to combat climate change. Whether or not the effort is enough is up for debate. But as of right now, it seems the country has much to do if we want to reach our climate change goals.
#3 Green finance
September 2021, the UK had been actively promoting green finance initiatives to encourage investments in environmentally sustainable projects and businesses.
Green finance refers to financial instruments, products, and services that prioritise environmentally friendly and socially responsible investments.
#4 Electric vehicles (EVs)
The UK government has set targets to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles. Initiatives include grants for EV purchases, expanding charging infrastructure, and promoting electric buses.
Here are some key aspects of the UK’s electric vehicle initiatives at that time:
The UK government offered plug-in grants to reduce the upfront cost of purchasing electric vehicles. These grants typically provided financial incentives to consumers and businesses to encourage the adoption of EVs.
The UK had been investing in expanding its EV charging infrastructure. This included increasing the number of public charging points across the country, with a focus on rapid chargers to reduce charging times.
Initiatives were in place to support the installation of home charging points for EV owners. Grants and incentives were available to encourage individuals to install charging infrastructure at their residences.
Company car tax incentives
The UK introduced tax incentives to promote electric company cars. These incentives often included lower tax rates for electric vehicles, making them more attractive for businesses and their employees.
Some UK cities had proposed or implemented zero-emission zones to restrict or charge polluting vehicles in certain areas, thus encouraging the use of electric vehicles.
#5 Banning single-use plastics
The UK has introduced bans and restrictions on single-use plastics, including plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds.
The primary reasons for these actions were environmental concerns related to the impact of single-use plastics on ecosystems, marine life, and the overall environment, as well as pressures from different environmental organisations and Millennial and Gen Z environmental activists, who use social media and campaigning to raise awareness about these issues.
They do not biodegrade quickly and can persist in the environment for decades, causing harm to wildlife and ecosystems.
To address these concerns, the UK government implemented several policy measures to restrict or ban the use of single-use plastics:
* Plastic straw ban: The UK banned the sale of plastic straws, plastic-stemmed cotton buds, and plastic drink stirrers in England in April 2020, with certain exemptions for medical and disability-related use.
* Plastic bag charge: The UK introduced a plastic bag charge in 2015, requiring retailers to charge customers for single-use plastic bags. This measure aimed to reduce plastic bag consumption and encourage the use of reusable bags.
* Extended producer responsibility (EPR): The UK government proposed an Extended Producer Responsibility scheme that would require producers and retailers to take greater responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products, including packaging and plastics. This is designed to encourage the use of sustainable materials and improve recycling rates.
* Deposit Return Scheme (DRS): The UK planned to introduce a DRS for drinks containers, such as bottles and cans, to incentivize recycling and reduce litter.
#6 Reforestation and conservation
The UK has launched initiatives to increase tree planting and protect natural habitats to sequester carbon and enhance biodiversity.
Reforestation and conservation are critical components of the UK’s broader efforts to combat climate change and protect its natural heritage. Here are some key actions and initiatives:
* Tree planting initiatives: The UK government had set ambitious targets for tree planting. The England Tree Strategy, for example, aimed to increase tree planting across England, with a goal to plant 30,000 hectares of trees annually across the UK by 2025.
* Urban tree planting: Many cities in the UK had initiated urban tree planting programs to enhance green spaces, improve air quality, and provide habitat for wildlife.
* Biodiversity strategies: The UK government developed biodiversity strategies and action plans to promote the conservation of species and ecosystems. This included efforts to address threats to pollinators, protect ancient woodlands, and promote sustainable land management.
What are the UK businesses doing to fight climate change?
In the latest annual audit from Surfers Against Sewage, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and PepsiCo were revealed as the worst companies for packaging pollution in the UK.
Reports from earlier in the year also indicate that only 1 in 200 companies have credible climate transition plans laid out for the future.
While statistics are available, it’s hard to truly define whether businesses are doing enough to fight climate change. There’s no denying that we need businesses to shift to more sustainable practices, but such changes present major investments that smaller businesses can’t afford and bigger businesses seem hesitant to make.
Currently, inflation and rising costs of products and materials have prevented British businesses from shifting to fully sustainable practices.
While many organisations are willing to shift towards more sustainable practices, various hurdles make this more difficult to accomplish.
This is why there’s a big gap between what businesses could be doing to become more sustainable and combat climate change, versus what they’re currently able to do.
The hurdles businesses face when fighting climate change
With the rising costs and increasing difficulties -along with some industries still feeling the effects of reduced business during the pandemic – some UK businesses have needed to take drastic measures simply to ensure their survival, let alone pour resources into becoming more sustainable.
As an overview, some of the primary difficulties faced by British businesses at present include:
As mentioned, the current state of the UK economy presents a clear roadblock in the attempts of UK businesses to shift toward sustainable practices. The cost of changing power sources, equipment, and business practices is too great for some businesses, which is why the fight against climate change has been slow to build momentum.
Another challenge is that of commitment. The implementation of sustainable practices doesn’t take weeks or months; In fact, a shift toward sustainability means permanently changing practices and equipment to lower your emissions and carbon footprint continuously. It’s something that businesses will need to be ever mindful of as we move forward.
Lack of support from the government
Lastly, many UK businesses, especially smaller entities, lack the necessary support from the government. Since the costs of these changes are so high, often requiring a major financial commitment, government support would go a long way in encouraging businesses to make the shift. But until all of these hurdles are tackled, we’re going to face an uphill battle against climate change.
There’s no denying that the UK’s professional businesses are keen to make an effort to fight climate change. And rightfully so – nobody, even the largest corporations in the UK, want their practices to be known for their negative impact on our planet.
However, making sustainable choices is hard, and with the rising costs of products and services, becoming a net-zero nation may currently feel like an unattainable dream. That said, with more government support, commitment from businesses, and informed knowledge on how and why we need to shift to sustainable practices, it’s a problem we, as both a nation and planet, can overcome. Until then, we’ve all got a lot of work to do.