Net zero drive 'the rational choice' for region's firms, says CBI

Julian Colman and Graham Denny of Denny Bros as the company installs solar panels on its roof

Solar panels being installed on a factory roof at East Anglian labelling and printing firm Denny Bros as part of its efforts to improve sustainability. Pictured right is managing director Graham Denny with Julian Colman - Credit: Denny Bros

East Anglian businesses remain sceptical the UK will hit its zero carbon targets - despite the huge economic benefits that will bring, a poll suggests.

Business lobby group CBI - which hosted a regional webinar on sustainability - argued that meeting CO2 targets was the "rational choice for business" as it laid out its climate change priorities for business and government.

Delegates from across the region heard from sustainability experts from the CBI and event partners the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Cadent Gas about the economic case for meeting CO2 goals - as well as the moral imperative.

But a poll of attendees - which included prominent regional business leaders drawn from a wide range of sectors - revealed that none were "very confident" that the UK is on track to meet its 2050 climate pledges.

Richard Tunnicliffe of CBI East of England

The CBI's Richard Tunnicliffe argues it's in East of England companies' interest to embrace net zero ambitions - Credit: CBI

CBI East of England director Richard Tunnicliffe argued that putting sustainability at the heart of the agenda was "the rational choice for business".

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"The time to act is now," he said.

“The warning signs are all around us, as the impact of climate change is being felt in everyday life. From fires and floods to rising temperatures, climate change is very much on our doorstep – and there is a growing recognition of the need to act.

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“We need to act urgently, and business can provide the investment and innovation needed. In the past, there may have been reservations about the cost of transitioning and the impact on competitiveness – but the penny has dropped that the cost of inaction will be far higher.

“A transition to net zero is not just a moral obligation, but also an economic opportunity. Moving to carbon-free can be a driver for levelling up and economic growth, and it will be a race to the top for businesses who take the lead by investing in green technologies such as carbon capture and bio energy."

Delegates heard from panellists from organisations including Simply Sustainable, Cadent, Bidwells and Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority, who listed priorities and practical tips for firms keen to take the next step in their net zero journeys, and spelt out the economic benefits of the move.

Those attending revealed their own firms were at different stages of their own net zero transition - from well advanced to just starting out.

The CBI is seeking action from government including accelerating the energy transition through greater investment in renewables and nuclear.

It also wants to see it enable investment in energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation, and is calling for the scaling up of production and uptake of low carbon transport.

It also says energy-intensive industries should be helped.

Meanwhile businesses need to measure their emissions and plot a trajectory for reducing them,  said the CBI.

Companies should report their progress in a "clear and credible way", and collaborate to achieve economies of scale, it added.

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