05 OCTOBER 2023

Blog: Staying on the road to Net Zero

Grosvenor’s Response to the Government’s stance on green policies

Jenny Flynn, Group Sustainability Manager

In April of this year, Grosvenor made a commitment to reduce emissions in line with science, to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. Whilst the commitment sounds simple, behind it sits a great deal of complexity, and delivering it will not be easy.

The commitment spans all of Grosvenor’s international activities, from our direct property businesses to our indirect investment businesses, our dairy farms, and our rural estates. It was developed over 12 months and is the aggregation of multiple credible and stretching decarbonisation strategies that are tailored to each of our business activities. These will be published in the coming few months. Whilst each business has its own target and pathway, as a group we have collectively agreed to prioritise decarbonisation, altering the way we make decisions and challenging ‘business-as-usual’ norms.

Importantly, our commitment applies to 100% of our emissions and requires close collaboration with our partners given that the majority of our emissions are ‘scope 3’ i.e. outside of our direct control and associated with our value chain (suppliers, tenants, investments). Using tools such as our supply chain charter, our SME Supplier Mentoring programme, and our green lease programme, we can support and encourage wider sectoral change which will enable both the delivery of our carbon targets, and broader industry decarbonisation.

Our businesses are already seeing the benefits of this collaboration with emissions associated with our UK property business’ supply chain reducing by 46% from a 2019 baseline. To learn more about our work, please see our most recent progress report here.

Whilst we are delivering material emissions reductions year on year, our success ultimately depends on several factors sitting outside of our control. Like all businesses, we do not operate in a vacuum, and we require bold, consistent leadership from government to bring about systemic change.

Without decarbonisation of the grid, we cannot achieve our overall decarbonisation targets. Replacing petrol cars with EVs is only beneficial if our electricity sources are clean. Without investment in technologies such as heat pumps and without investment in the skills required to install them, it will be more difficult to encourage our occupiers to make the switch. Combatting climate change requires a joined-up approach between the public and private sector. As more and more businesses are setting science-based targets and developing bold, ambitious decarbonisation strategies, it is disappointing to see the UK government retreat on past commitments and reverse policy, water down ambition and ultimately undermine efforts already underway.

The UK Climate Change Committee published a report in June of this year assessing the progress made towards the UK’s 2050 net zero target. It described a ‘lack of urgency’ from the government, stating that progress was not being made at the required pace to meet our future targets. It recommended that the government ‘stay firm on existing commitments and move to delivery’, ‘retake a clear leadership role internationally’, and urged that households and communities should be empowered and informed to make low-carbon choices[1].

In stark contrast to these recommendations, the Prime Minister’s most recent government announcements have rowed back on important milestone targets that set a path to the UK meeting its legally binding 2050 target. In doing so, our position as a global leader on climate change has been undermined, unclear and confusing messages have been sent to households and communities and the lack of clarity and consistency, essential ingredients for policy success have angered the business community.

90% of UKGBC members stated that they were concerned by the government’s approach, arguing that ‘industry and consumers need certainty to build confidence and support for the changes needed to our buildings’ both to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis and lessen the environmental impact of the built environment.  Large car manufacturers such as Ford have also objected to the policy change, stating that the industry needs ‘ambition, commitment, consistency of message’ and that the most recent relaxation of policy ‘undermined all three’[2].

Grosvenor echoes these sentiments. We are in a climate emergency and there is a huge amount to do. We believe that genuine leadership on this issue is of fundamental importance and that it will provide a competitive advantage, which is why we are committed to continuing to innovate and help drive forward industry action and attitudes.

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