Governments told business won’t hit net zero without support

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has warned net zero targets will be hard to hit unless governments work with businesses across the globe on making the transition.

More than 1,000 businesses, including some from the BCC’s International British Chamber Network, took part in the survey to understand what steps they are already taking to reach net zero and what support would encourage them to further reduce their carbon footprint.

It found most businesses were either unaware of or were not taking steps to get involved in key net zero strategies. These included the impact of changes to food supply chains (93%), a ‘Just Transition’ to net zero (93%), or the use of ‘nature-based solutions’ (89%)

It also warned that businesses want to see capital grants and tax allowances to support them to make the transition.

The latest data also highlights the divide between larger and smaller businesses, with only 5% of firms with less than 10 employees carrying out an assessment on potential net zero changes to food supply chains, compared with 10% of firms with more than 50 staff.

Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the BCC, said: “Everyone is aware that the target of reaching net zero by 2050 is extremely challenging and of historic importance. But there is a real danger that smaller businesses will get left behind unless politicians and business leaders come together to galvanise action.

“The steps a High Street hairdresser must take to get to net zero will be very different to those needed for a farmer or those of a component manufacturer.

“Larger firms need to help smaller businesses within their supply chains to adapt and adjust. The BCC has developed a Net Zero hub, in partnership with O2, to provide businesses with a one-stop shop on everything they need to know about setting Net Zero targets.”

Firms of all sectors and sizes said that either capital grants or tax allowances would do most to support them to reduce their carbon consumption in the long-term, with 61% citing either of those options as the single most effective type of support. Businesses based outside the UK were also most likely to cite tax allowances as their preferred type of support.

The latest data survey also gave an indication of which of the UK’s 10 key priorities for a green industrial revolution were most important to them.

It found that 39% recommend prioritising ‘protecting our natural environment’, while 34% favoured ‘greener buildings’, 33% ‘delivering new and advanced nuclear power’, 33% ‘advancing offshore wind’, and 32% ‘driving the growth of low carbon hydrogen’.

Haviland added: “Politicians, for their part, must find ways to help business help themselves, especially smaller firms concerned about extra costs and red tape if they want to adopt green technology and practices.

“What we are still lacking is much of the detail. There needs to be both carrot and stick for firms to make the change. We need to know how businesses will be supported to switch from gas boilers, when electric vehicle charging points will become commonplace, how our freight systems will be decarbonised and our energy sources diversified and stabilised.

“Inevitably, how we pay for all of this is a big question. The ambitious transition to a carbon neutral economy will put a huge strain on public sector finances in the years to come.

“The pandemic means many firms are still struggling to get themselves back on a sustainable footing and cannot currently bear additional tax rises that will further squeeze their cashflow.”

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