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July 19, 2023

Editor’s note: ‘Why business needs government to lead climate action’

M&S is among more than 100 companies that have written to the UK prime minister about the importance of net zero for business and the environment (Photo: ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/Fotoware)
M&S is among more than 100 companies that have written to the UK prime minister about the importance of net zero for business and the environment (Photo: ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/Fotoware)

The latest edition of our Sustainable Views newsletter.

Dear Reader,

The UK prime minister Rishi Sunak is under attack once again over his lack of climate action. Last month, former climate minister Zac Goldsmith accused the prime minister of being “simply uninterested” in the environment.

Then, following the damning report by the Climate Change Committee at the beginning of July on the UK’s lack of progress towards its energy transition targets, the committee’s former chair, Conservative peer Lord Deben, said: “Labour is right on this… leadership requires taking hard decisions, and this is a hard decision we should take,” backing the opposition’s plans to block all new domestic oil and gas developments.

Today, it is the turn of business to call out Sunak’s failure to make climate change a priority. More than 100 companies, including Tesco, BT, M&S, Unilever and Amazon, have written to the prime minister to underline the importance of net zero for business and the environment, reports The Times.

The companies said the 2050 net zero goal was a “massive economic opportunity”. They planned “to invest billions” as the transition is “crucial for our future prosperity, and because we know it is the right thing to do for the future of our planet,” but insisted they needed “leadership and commitment to the green economy” from Sunak.

The importance of government leadership to get countries to net zero is also made clear by the Financial Times’s Pilita Clark today. She writes: “We should not expect the fossil fuel industry to lead us out of a crisis caused by fossil fuels. Only governments have the power to cut demand for oil and gas, and their job has barely started.”

Yet, exactly what policies governments should enact to get the world to net zero is a bone of contention everywhere, with divisions often along political lines. The left/right-wing split on climate action is increasingly apparent in votes on environmental matters in the European parliament. Sustainable Views reported last week on the serious differences voiced between political parties on the proposed Nature Restoration Law.

Yesterday, it was the turn of Solvency II to be dissected and voted on by members of the European parliament, with some accusing German centre-right MEP Markus Ferber of watering down proposals to ensure insurers deliver on net zero. Later today we’ll bring you the outcome of the votes on the planned Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation.

Finally, from Europe, we report on the call from the EU energy regulator for the bloc’s latest gas infrastructure plans to be improved and brought more in line with projected falls in gas consumption.

In the US, Steve Gilmore reports on how some unexpected alliances are starting to be made to stop the pushback against renewables by big landowners, right-wing think-tanks and certain fossil fuel companies.

Until tomorrow,

Philippa

Philippa Nuttall is EU correspondent at Sustainable Views

A service from the Financial Times