UK trailing in global decarbonisation race, warns CBI

The US and the EU have taken decisive action while Britain has missed opportunities, industry chief says

A wind farm in north-east England. Britain's transition from a high-polluting to a low-carbon producing economy must be accelerated, an industry panel has heard. PA
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Britain is trailing in the global race towards decarbonisation and has missed key opportunities for progress in the fight against climate change, an industry boss has said.

Tania Kumar, of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), warned Britain “stands to lose out on the opportunity from the decarbonisation transition” because crucial steps are not being taken.

Decarbonisation sits at centre of the conversation around where economies are heading in the next decade, she said, and “decisive action” by governments is essential to ensure progress.

A key question in the decarbonisation process, she stressed, involves looking at how to achieve change with limited resources available.

“That is what the climate change question is also about,” she said. “So how is that actually going to play out?

“For us here in the UK, it's ‘where does the UK stand in all of this as well?’

“Some research that we've done recently with McKinsey has shown that the UK actually stands to lose out on the opportunity from the decarbonisation transition."

She added that Britain had simply been too slow to take “decisive action” on climate policy.

Ms Kumar said the process of reducing nations’ carbon footprints had evolved into a “proper competitive global race” in which Washington and Brussels look to be ahead of London.

“At the back end of [2022] the United States came out with the Inflation Reduction Act, which suddenly made decarbonisation policy [part of] industrial and economic policy,” she said.

“And that you can really see filtering through the public policy space, but also more broadly taking these topics to trade conversations to skills conversations.

“It's now being seen as that number one issue ... ‘where are economies going to be in the next decade?’”

While noting the measures implemented by the US government to make strides in the fight against global warming, she said the EU had been tentative on its "new version of the Green New Deal, their Net Zero Industry Act”.

She said there was a “need for real pace” among policymakers when it came to the transition from a high-polluting to a low-carbon producing economy.

Ms Kumar, the CBI’s head of decarbonisation, made the comments during a panel discussion titled ‘Realising the green industrial revolution’ at Chatham House’s Energy Transitions conference on Thursday.

The first Global Stocktake of the Paris climate accord in the lead up to Cop28 later this year would be a moment of truth for world leaders to acknowledge the progress they have made in combating climate change, she said.

Updated: March 02, 2023, 12:39 PM