In a week where political media coverage was dominated by the Budget, you may have missed news from Westminster that the government plans to “tighten climate rules” and “cut carbon emissions effectively to zero”, as BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin summarised.

Currently, the government is legally committed to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent come 2050, compared to the levels emitted in 1990. But in the Commons, energy minister Andrea Leadsom said the government thought it necessary to enshrine in UK law the recent Paris commitment to achieve net zero emissions.

Historic agreement

At the COP 21: UN climate change conference, which took place in the French capital last December and brought together 196 nations, under a UN global climate agreement, a commitment was made to keeping global temperature rises “well below” 2°C (3.6°F), which was described as a “historic, durable and ambitious” agreement.

According to Harrabin, ministers believe the “UK must not increase CO2 at all, because the warming threat is so severe.” Leadsom continued: “The question is not whether, but how we do it. And there are important questions to be answered before we do”. “This is an example, once again, of the House demonstrating a cross-party determination to tackle climate change.”

Cross-party support

Ed Miliband was Secretary of State for the newly-created Department of Energy and Climate Change in 2008, when Gordon Brown’s government announced it would legislate to commit to reducing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

Miliband welcomed Leadsom’s words in the Commons. Speaking to BBC News, he said: “This will send a signal to other countries that this is the right thing to do.” The former Labour leader and current MP for Doncaster North added: “We very much welcome what [the ministers] have done – now we’ve got to make sure the government delivers on it.”

The government’s announcement follows an amendment to the Energy Bill tabled by Miliband and MPs from Labour, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SDLP, which calls for the UK to work towards net zero carbon emissions.

SME guidance

Many of the UK’s five million or so small and medium-sized businesses have made excellent progress in recent years to reduce their carbon footprint. As well as making an important environmental contribution, reducing your carbon footprint can help you to reduce costs, attract and retain customers and staff, and enjoy a range of other business benefits.

The Carbon Trust is an independent organisation that seeks to “accelerate the move to a sustainable, low carbon economy”. Its website features a range of information, tools and guidance for SMEs that want to reduce their carbon emissions.

You can also join the Carbon Trust SME Network (an online community for SMEs looking to reduce carbon emissions from their estate and operations).

The business case for reducing carbon is strong. And well worth a read is the Carbon Trust Better business guide to energy saving. As well as cutting your overheads, your business could also play a role in helping to deliver a net zero carbon future for the UK.

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