Journey to Net Zero

Harriet Parker, Sustainability and ESG Manager at Low Carbon, discusses our journey to net zero”.

History will determine the legacy of COP26, and whether the pledges made by global leaders will accomplish enough to avert a climate catastrophe. If the international community makes good on its commitments – at COP27 and beyond – there is every chance the Glasgow Summit will be remembered for lasting change brought about by decisions on deforestation, methane emissions, climate finance and the phasing-out of coal.

To mark COP26, 5,200 companies committed to the UN’s global Race to Zero campaign, almost half of these British, and 60 members of the FTSE 100 committed to reaching net zero by 2050. With the latter boasting a combined market capitalisation of over £1.2 trillion, it was undeniably impressive to see the UK leading by example as it hosted the Summit.

But the flurry of net zero pledges has been subject to criticism. Commentators have argued that many companies made premature commitments, foregoing detailed plans for implementation and lacking the benchmarking required for them to be held to account. Some businesses – and governments – have since been accused of watering down their climate pledges, giving the charge of ‘greenwashing’ a fresh hearing.

At Low Carbon, our net zero commitment is at the absolute heart of our long-term ambition. By investing in renewable energy projects at scale, we are helping to bring more and more emissions-free energy to grids across the UK and Europe, and in turn to homes and businesses. We have a pipeline of more than 5GW currently in development and, as we mark our tenth anniversary, we have set our sights on delivering 20GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030.

Our initial net zero target was 2050, in line with countless governments, multinationals and industry peers. Having analysed our own carbon footprint and that of our project pipeline, we took a landmark decision – to set a far more aggressive goal of hitting net zero 2030, covering Scopes 1, 2 and 3.

Scope 3, which accounts for all our projects, business travel and other third-party emissions, poses the biggest challenge by far, as we scale-up our operations in pursuit of the parallel objective to build 20GW of renewable energy capacity. To achieve both goals, we must first eliminate, then reduce, substitute and finally compensate for carbon emissions throughout our project pipeline.

We have identified five key levers for the management of our carbon emissions; energy use, travel, construction, supply chain, renewable energy generation technology choice and finally, compensation. As discussed, we have varying degrees of control over these levers but each and every action that we implement has the capacity to contribute to our journey to net zero. Every time we can eliminate or reduce carbon emissions, the intensity of our emissions in tonnes CO2e/ MW capacity of energy generation is reduced. This brings us closer to achieving our combined goals of building 20GW of renewable energy capacity alongside net zero by 2030.

Our strategic partnership with MassMutual, announced last November, underlines a shared, transatlantic commitment to reaching net zero. In alignment with Low Carbon’s core goals, MassMutual’s commitments include:

  • Net zero operations by 2030: Achieving net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in MassMutual’s operations by 2030 by reducing emissions, purchasing renewable energy, and removing the remaining footprint through credible offsets; and,
  • Net zero investment portfolio by 2050: Transitioning to net zero GHG emissions in MassMutual’s investment portfolio by 2050 through responsible investment and stakeholder collaboration, making MassMutual the first US-based mutual insurance company to make this pledge.

Working together, we believe we can leverage each other’s unique position in the market and domain expertise to advance our efforts.

As COP26 fades to a memory, and world leaders prepare for a less anticipated but equally important Summit at COP27, we call on governments and businesses alike to consider whether they too could go further in pursuit of net zero.