Investing in a Sustainable Planet

Investing in a Sustainable Planet

Investing in a Sustainable Planet

Sep 6, 2021

Investing in a Sustainable Planet: The Road to Net Zero

How technology and innovation play a role in reaching net zero

Setting and achieving emission reduction goals and moving to a carbon-neutral, or net-zero, economy is a pressing concern in the UK and worldwide. Reaching this objective will require a coordinated effort from governments and organisations, including strategic investment into technology and innovation.

Hiba Arshad, strategy and former policy advisor in the UK Treasury, has a unique perspective on climate policy, as outlined in her Future of Engineering talk on net zero and the role of technology and innovation.

Committing to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions

Setting a goal of net zero by 2050 means that by that deadline, the UK will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible, then create offset methods to balance the remaining emissions to a net of zero emissions.

Arshad recently led the delivery of the Treasury’s Net Zero Review: Interim Report, which takes a close look at how people’s lives, businesses, and the economy will need to adapt as the UK transitions to net-zero gas emissions by 2050.

To reach this goal, governments and organisations will need to integrate sustainability at every level.

What factors should we consider for successful integration?

Four questions can help us understand how all levels of our society and economy will need to work together to achieve this goal.

  1. What will the costs of the transition to net-zero be?
  2. Who will bear the costs, and how can we ensure an equitable balance of contributions across society?
  3. What are the tradeoffs between cost competitiveness and impacts on the taxpayer?
  4. What is the role of technology and innovation in reaching Net Zero, and how can the government support it?

How prepared is the UK to meet the net-zero challenge?

The majority of the technologies needed to help transition the UK to net-zero already exist. The challenge, however, is to make these technologies cost-effective and to prove them at scale.

The rapid development and deployment needed will require a landscape that supports innovation and investment, which brings us to the role of government.

How can governments help guide investment into green technologies?

Arshad says governments can use technology and innovation uncertainty frameworks to guide investors in emerging technologies by categorising them into different levels of risk.

  • Level one describes proven technologies.
  • Level two describes technology where there is still uncertainty and where technologies may not be commercially viable.
  • Level three represents technologies not yet commercially viable.
  • Level four describes technologies not yet invented.

Integrated sustainability is key to Net-Zero

Reducing emissions and shifting to a carbon-neutral economy will take a coordinated effort from multiple stakeholders to integrate these efforts towards a common goal. Those working in technology and innovation should find plenty of opportunities to lend their skills to the cause.

Governments can help reduce uncertainty about investment in green technologies, share in the risk undertaken by investors, and provide direct support to organisations making net-zero commitments.

These efforts are already well underway. In 2020, Arshad says, “nearly 40% of all assets managed in the UK integrated environmental, social, and governance factors in the investment decisions.”

Want to learn more about how technology and innovation are essential to solving the world’s most critical issues? Join us for The Future of Engineering Summit on February 15th-17th, 2022.

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