Home Climate justice Climate change: How false carbon accounting is hurting the UK’s efforts to achieve net zero emissions – Professor Ian Thomson

Climate change: How false carbon accounting is hurting the UK’s efforts to achieve net zero emissions – Professor Ian Thomson

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Under current international carbon accounting standards, work cycle programs for company staff can add to the company’s reported carbon emissions (Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Although this may not apply to all companies, the fact is that most UK companies are far from achieving net zero targets. There are many reasons for these shortcomings, but one of the most glaring is the unreliability of carbon accounting systems.

Recent research from the University of Birmingham’s Business School shows a worrying mismatch between the most widely used carbon metrics and their actual impacts, meaning misrepresentations of emissions are being made by companies.

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This means that when it comes to “decarbonizing” the country, it can be nearly impossible to identify effective ways forward.

Under current international carbon accounting standards, emissions from supply chains and aftermarket product use and waste are excluded from the calculations. This means supermarkets selling food from local UK farms have higher reported carbon emissions than those importing their produce from abroad.

It can also cause walking or cycling programs for staff to work adding to reported carbon emissions, and nature-based solutions being completely ignored.

With this confusing and just plain nonsense way of measuring carbon emissions and the effectiveness of sustainability initiatives, it’s no wonder there’s a lack of corporate zero-emissions activity.

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A recent survey by Birmingham Business School’s Lloyds Banking Group Center for Responsible Business showed that 50% of senior decision makers do not have a net zero strategy, while 74% of UK adults expect businesses have one.

Moreover, the focus is disproportionately on profitability; nearly a third of senior business decision makers subscribe to the myth that success is tied exclusively to profitability.

Increasingly, consumers and investors value social and environmental justice. But few companies plan to take the necessary radical steps towards change.

More than that, companies seem actively unaffected by public pressure; only seven percent of companies responded that a public boycott would make them more sustainable.

We must encourage all companies to consider sustainable practices and social justice as part of their business model and urge business and government to come together to work on more honest ways to measure emissions.

With a climate emergency rapidly accelerating in severity, businesses must view it as a collective issue, not a luxury. With soaring social inequality and the hour ahead of us towards our net zero target in 2050, businesses must not only meet the expectations of the UK public, but also take proactive steps to tackle these issues, by strengthening the confidence and creating long-term strategies.

It has never been more crucial, or more urgent, for companies to base their decisions on accurate and well-informed information, and Birmingham Business School is continuing its research to formulate an agenda of suggested reforms that will enable the goals set to be achieved. . at the COP26 climate summit.

If net zero is to become a viable option for the UK, it is imperative that UK businesses recognize that they hold the key to a much more sustainable future.

Professor Ian Thomson is director of the Lloyds Banking Group Center for Responsible Business at the University of Birmingham, organizer of the Center for Social and Environmental Accounting Research and a global expert on carbon accounting.