Firms urged to sign up to net zero pledge despite Covid challenges

Environmental services firms urged to take net zero pledge.

Ahead of World Environment Day on Friday 5 June 2020, the organisations behind Pledge To Net Zero have urged environmental services firms to remain steadfast in their commitment to reducing greenhouse gases in the sector, despite the short-term distractions of COVID-19.

With many organisations focussing on short-term issues associated with the virus, the importance of climate change in government policy and cutting organisations’ own greenhouse gas emissions should not be lost, those behind the pledge say. Pledge to Net Zero is the first industry commitment in the UK requiring science-based targets from its signatories to tackle greenhouse gas emissions within their organisations. 

44 firms in the environmental services sector have now committed to Pledge to Net Zero since its launch six months ago, covering over 20,000 employees in the sector. Signatories to date represent multiple sectors, including private sector consultancies, public sector organisations, professional bodies and non-consultancy companies working in fields such as contracting. 

All signatories have committed to the following three pledges: 

  • Set and commit to deliver a greenhouse gas target in line with either a 1.5°C or well below 2°C climate change scenario – covering buildings and travel as a minimum. 
  • Publicly report greenhouse gas emissions and progress against this target each year
  • Publish one piece of research or thought-leadership piece each year on practical steps to delivering an economy in line with climate science and in support of net zero carbon.

Last week, the Energy Institute announced it had agreed initial science-based targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, using the approach set out by Pledge to Net Zero.

The initiative, led by Society for the Environment (SocEnv), Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) and Environmental Industries Commission (EIC), together with leading environmental consultancies, WSP and AECOM, seeks to make the sector a leader for taking action on climate change, by not only asking businesses to embed net zero in their work but also implement net zero plans as an organisation.

The next signatory window for the pledge opens on World Environment Day on 5 June. Signatories who make the pledge during the upcoming 2020 windows will set their first science-based target before 15 May 2021.

The informative webinars the pledge has hosted since its launch have also been well received, with over 1,000 attendees to recent seminars ‘A guide to pledging’ and ‘A guide to setting a science-based target’.

Dr Emma Wilcox, Chief Executive at the Society for the Environment said: “The 40-plus signatories to date are highlighting their commitment and leadership on the vital journey towards the 2050 net zero target set by the UK Government. Some will find it harder than others and many will need support, but that is perfectly OK – the end goal is still achievable. I encourage all current signatories to collaborate and challenge others to make the pledge – a hugely positive difference is inevitable with a collective, science-based effort.”

David Symons, UK Director of Sustainability at WSP, said: “To see such enthusiasm and engagement from the environmental services sector in only six months is extremely encouraging.  We need to continue this action because while COVID-19 is the most urgent threat to society today, climate change is the largest threat to humanity in the long term.”

Robert Spencer, Director of Sustainable Development at AECOM, said: “It’s encouraging to see colleagues and peers in our sector getting behind the Pledge to Net Zero over the last six months.  It is so important for our credibility as trusted advisors on decarbonisation that we go through the same challenges and successes as our clients and work out what net zero solutions work for us and how we can learn and share best practice.  

“Setting and having our own science-based targets has been a real game changer for the AECOM community and provided a strong platform for us and our clients as we develop initiatives for pulling carbon out of infrastructure and building developments in the run up to COP26 and beyond.”

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