Lord Deben’s speech and just transition debates: What happened on Day One of Net-Zero Live 2020?

Lord Deben (top left) provided the opening keynote speech from his home in London

For the first time ever, edie’s flagship Net-Zero Live event is being held virtually. The first day of the three-day conference, hosted in association with EDF Energy, was (digitally) jam-packed as hundreds of attendees took part in open roundtables, polls and speed networking.

Committee on Climate Change (CCC) Chairman Lord Deben kicked off the event with a rousing keynote speech, in which he provided his reflections on the intersections of the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis – and his thoughts on the green recovery movement.

Deben explained how he has seen the international climate change debate change “rapidly” throughout 2020, with Japan, South Korea and China pledging to set net-zero targets in law and Joe Biden winning the US election. Biden has publicly committed to re-entering the Paris Agreement after President Trump’s formal exit from the Accord was completed this month.

“Virtually every nation on earth” is now taking part in the net-zero transition, Deben said – something that provides professionals with “a real hope that we can make major changes as we move towards COP26” in November 2021.

Deben also emphasised the importance of coupling economic growth with decarbonisation, stating that the CCC believes that net-zero can be met in the UK using 0.5%-2% of GDP, and confirmed that the body will publish its new carbon budget advice before the year is out.

“This is the moment… that will make or break this world,” he summarised.

Next up was a rousing panel discussion featuring expert speakers from organisations with sector-leading net-zero targets – namely WSP, Dentsu International, LafargeHolcim, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and EDF.

Speakers discussed the importance of not letting transport-related emissions rebound post-pandemic; the need to go beyond offsetting and aim for ambitious reductions and the importance of policymakers in levelling the playing field and bringing SMEs along. They provided much inspiration and motivation, with WSP UK’s director of sustainability David Symons calling the net-zero transition a “mighty opportunity to innovate”.

After a quick coffee break and a round of speed networking, attendees convened for a masterclass on the practicalities of developing and delivering net-zero strategies. The 45-minute session was designed to help businesses at all stages of their journey, from getting an emissions baseline to implementing more challenging decarbonisation initiatives. Our panel of experts from CDP, JRP Solutions and Centrica emphasised the importance of education, materiality assessments and overcoming overwhelm in the early stages and provided advice for securing and maintaining boardroom buy-in.

“Net-zero is as much a values call as a business call or a scientific one,” was Centrica’s group head of environment Jim Rushden’s top tip on the latter issue.

The last sessions of the day were two open roundtables – one focusing on social sustainability and governance, the other, exploring the evolution of sustainability-related communications in the time of Covid-19.

In the former, speakers discussed whether the focus on the ‘S’ in ESG has really been “super-charged” during the pandemic and how the private sector has rethought its approach to diversity and multi-stakeholder models in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. Panellists agreed that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are still the best framework to use to develop and measure targets; to identify focus areas and to understand the necessity of an intersectional approach.

In the latter roundtable, chaired by Luke’s content director Luke Nicholls, participants emphasised the need to make communications personal and to connect individuals with macro issues like climate change. They also discussed how health and wellbeing are now higher on the agenda than ever before and how the wellness and social conversation intersects with the environmental. More specifically, the panel recommended tools like Mural and Miro to ensure that virtual conversations result in the same collaboration and innovation as face-to-face meetings.

Please note: Recordings of the Day One sessions will be made available to registered attendees shortly.

Join the conversation 

Registration is still open for Day Two (11 November) and Day Three (12 November) of Net-Zero Live. The event is free to attend and includes high-level keynote talks, interactive panel discussions, facilitated networking sessions and educational masterclasses, as well as virtual exhibition booths showcasing the cutting-edge net-zero technologies and services that will shape the decade ahead.

Register now to hear from representatives of Unilever, Timberland, Landsec, Multiplex and many more. Click here for registration forms and for the agenda

Edie Staff

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