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Climate Change: The 2020 Outlook

Following the result of a General Election where each party laid out ambitious climate change and sustainability targets and the longest-ever climate talks drawing to a close, we examine what future efforts to combat climate change will look like in 2020 and beyond.

After a landslide victory, much attention is now on whether the ambitious green plans laid out by the Conservative party pre-election will materialise, or if it was simply a vote-winning ploy, driven in part by the clear commitment to sustainability demonstrated by rival parties.

As the pace of decarbonisation continues to quicken, ensuring that your organisation is already reducing carbon emissions and actively working towards your own net-zero targets ensures both that the impact of the new legislation will be mitigated and continued alignment with the wider expectations of customers, investors and stakeholders.

Prime Minister’s Climate Priorities

As well as reiterating commitments to net-zero emissions by 2050, the Conservative Manifesto confirmed the creation of an Office for Environmental Protection, which will be responsible for environmental standards post-Brexit.

Boris Johnson is also reportedly planning to establish a new government department to ensure the UK works towards a net-zero future, reversing the 2016 decision to merge the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) and the Department for Business into the Department for Business, Energy, Industrial Strategy. The move appears to indicate a renewed commitment to effective environmental legislation, bringing with it likely significant implications for business.

The current moratorium on fracking could provide an indicator of future plans, a resumption could be an indicator of a shift away from wider environmental pledges.

Now armed with a mandate to deliver a rapid Brexit, but with a deal that aims to maintain current trade with the EU, Johnson faces a difficult decision if he plans to capitalise on a new trade deal with the United States.

The US has ruled out any mention of climate change in the wording of any future trade deal, while the EU is set to place a punitive border tax on customers that fail to address carbon emissions. Pleasing both is likely to be a tricky balancing act.

Other policies are similarly perceived as at odds with wider climate change objectives, particularly given the additional burden of the UK hosting next year’s COP26 climate talks, such as the planned investment of nearly £30 billion in new roads confirmed by the Treasury in September 2019.


The 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change drew to a close in Madrid on December 15th 2019, marking the end of the longest United Nations climate change debate on record.

Despite overrunning by two days, many delegates will have left disappointed by a final decision that in many ways does little but again kick the can down the road until COP26, due to take place in Glasgow in December 2020.

Next year’s conference is hosted by the UK puts a great deal of additional pressure on Britain to demonstrate leading green credentials.

Anything less, and particularly a failure to successfully achieve short-term environmental targets, would badly undermine the UK’s leadership position. It is for this reason that British businesses should be prepared for a potential increase in environmental obligations in the near future.

Environmental Targets

Increasingly, major UK corporates are moving faster and further than they are required to under Government legislation, dragging much of their supply chain along with them. For businesses that have already achieved a significant reduction in their carbon footprint, it is important to ensure that complacency doesn’t hamper progress further down the line.

Even if you are performing well now, the scale of the challenge that we all collectively face means that achieving it will require ongoing endeavour, adopting new solutions and embracing an innovative, wide-ranging approach that frequently benchmarks current performance and actively seeks out improvements.

To explore the options available to you or for support drawing up a sustainability plan that is tailored to the needs of your business, contact our expert team on 08451 46 36 26.