Eyes of the world firmly fixed on Glasgow

The opening fortnight of November saw the eyes of the world firmly fixed on Glasgow.

By Adrian Doran is CBI Northern Ireland Chair
Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 1:41 pm

The opening fortnight of November saw the eyes of the world firmly fixed on Glasgow.

Pledges on ‘coal, cars, cash and trees’ made during COP26 have somewhat increased optimism that countries are committed to real net zero progress. It is now vital that promises and pledges become reality.

The Earth’s fate will not be decided by the gestures of politicians alone. It will also be defined by the rest of us. Each and every one of us hold the power to drive change through the choices we make in our personal and professional lives.

Adrian Doran is CBI Northern Ireland Chair

From the products we buy and the services we use, to the homes we live in and the journeys we make, we are all making choices each day which can help make or break the world’s ambitions on climate action.

Increasing numbers of us understand this responsibility. Latest ONS data says three quarters of adults across the UK are concerned about the impact of climate change. It’s imperative for governments, people, and businesses to act now.

Northern Ireland businesses have long recognised this. Many are making great strides in their own climate journeys. And those yet to act face a stark choice: get moving – or get left behind.

This reality has absolutely sunk in for firms. COP26 saw record levels of CEO attendance. And companies don’t send their bosses to secure reputations. They send them to commit to action.

In this vein, it was fantastic to so many of our local companies from transport manufacturers like Wrigthbus to agrifood firms like Devenish exhibiting and engaging in the debate.

I am a big believer that firms have the ambition, expertise, and financial muscle to overcome the biggest challenges of the transition to a low carbon future. Because delivering a net zero world is a task that requires business doing what it does best: innovating.

Whether that’s scaling up clean power production, or reinventing foundational industries like agriculture, mining and building and energy-intensive sectors like transport and manufacturing.

COP26 had to keep 1.5C alive. What they needed was businesses on board, helping to find new solutions that leave a sustainable legacy for future generations.

Of course, Northern Ireland needs to play its part. In the past week we have welcomed announcements on a Green Growth Strategy and the establishment of an Electric Vehicle Taskforce, but we need to do more, and faster.

The UK Committee on Climate Change advises that Northern Ireland needs to add £1.3 billion annually by 2030 in investment in the transition.

To attract that critical private sector investment we need, the Executive must put in place a credible framework and deliverable strategies.

It is to our shame that Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK without a statutory framework on climate change. There is no more room for delay. A Climate Change Act must be delivered before the end of this Assembly mandate, as promised in New Decade New Approach. But for investor confidence it must be both ambitious and credible, fully aligned with Committee on Climate Change advice.

On energy, business has welcomed intensive consultation on the new strategy, with anticipated targets of at least 70% renewables by 2030. Business stands ready to collaborate with all the relevant stakeholders but we need to see it published in the coming weeks, with clear and deliverable policies flowing from it.

Ultimately, the green transition will define the future success of NI plc – that’s why we at the CBI have put it at the heart of our economic vision. Decarbonisation is the big bet for the post-Covid, post-Brexit economy.

So the CBI will continue working closely with the NI Executive on industry low carbon transition plans. Together we can ensure that climate change policy unlocks green investment nationally and globally.

We will also continue to encourage companies to collaborate with each other to build on the momentum of COP26. If we keep the focus on action, we can set ourselves on course for a better world.

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