ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

Pledge net zero 2022: carbon offsets from a programme you can visit

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 07 Dec 2021

Where to start? That is the question lots of companies will ask their trusted adviser as they seek to meet their net zero pledges. Carbon offsetting is part of the mix, especially in the early stages of a net-zero pathway, but wouldn’t it help if companies could visit the projects they invest in?

And wouldn’t it help too if they had an idea of the cost of a net-zero pledge early in the process?

Stephen Fern, Chairman of Ark2030, believes the road to net zero should be a process which is clear, transparent and engaging for all stakeholders. For maximum impact from our net-zero commitment, the first step is the easiest. Offsetting your current Carbon Footprint immediately. But to avoid the charge of greenwashing, this has to be aligned with a commitment to reducing your actual carbon footprint over the months and years ahead.

He points out that for a typical office based 10-person SME, the cost of offsetting its entire carbon footprint could be as little as £750 per annum. But rather than funding a random environmental project on the far side of the world, he believes that funding a project ‘on our doorstep’ is significantly more engaging for every business stakeholder, and in Britain we are lucky to have one of the most important environmental ecosystems in the world: Peatlands.

This will have an impact on all companies

He reminds us that every listed company in the UK will be under an obligation to publish its net-zero strategy from January 2022. “This will no longer be just a brand issue. It is something that every accountancy firm that has a relationship with a PLC will be called on to help with. Firms will be asked: what is this report, what does it look like, what do we have to do?” says Fern. 

So alongside the Carbon Offset Programme, Ark2030 is working with technology partners to provide businesses and their advisors with an online framework to calculate and measure the key environmental impacts of a business and to develop the framework to deliver on their Net Zero plans.

“As a profession, we have to lead by example. We need every practice to pledge Net Zero. We then need to help every business that we advise to do the same. This is not just about complying with the new regulations. It is about playing our part in addressing the greatest challenge to our way of life; the climate crisis.

The company climate change responsibility is two-fold

Companies around the UK will be asking: ‘What is my responsibility in terms of the climate crisis?’ 

This responsibility falls into two parts. One is about the carbon footprint of the operation. This relates specifically to the net zero pledge, and the fact that the UK has to deliver on its commitments as part of the Paris Accord. 

Alongside that, there is the sustainability agenda. The impact on the environment of the resources utilised by the business. These are two separate agendas, both of which will be considerable sources of advisory work for our profession”

“Most people's perception of the climate crisis is driven by the impact on weather systems and rising tides - a ‘slow creep’. But the reality is the UN has said we will reach a tipping point in 2030, where 60% of biodiversity disappears irretrievably and ecosystem collapse will break down our global food supply systems… there is no way back”

The Ark2030 mission

It was upon hearing this message that Fern established the Ark2030 mission, presented to the UN Climate Summit in New York in 2019, delivering a roadmap to restore the 500 million hectares of ecosystems around the world that have been destroyed by human activity since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

“The Ark2030 mission is based upon the principle that ‘No Tree Stands Alone’ - every programme involves a deep understanding of how land or ocean interacts with bio diversity and community. We need sustainable impact not just ‘planting a tree’ or ‘creating a carbon credit’”

This brings us onto projects that matter to each organisation. “What we found is that there is an immense connection with doing stuff that's on our doorstep,” he says. And it is easier for us all to connect with simple language and a project you can actually visit with colleagues or family.

“In the UK we have selected the peatland programme because it is probably the biggest and most impactful programme on land in the UK. There are peatlands in the West Country, in the North of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and in many other places. The great British peatlands start around the base of the Peak District and they go the length of England until you get to the Scottish borders then out across Scotland. Huge proportions of Scotland are peatlands,” he explains.

“Peatlands are the equivalent of wet coal”

It is vital that these peatlands are restored because, although peatlands only account for 3% of land in the world, they account for 30% of natural carbon emissions. “In essence, peatlands are the equivalent of wet coal,” he says. “In the same way that when coal burns it gives up CO2, when peatlands degrade, they give up CO2 and methane on an unparalleled scale. 

The peatlands are not drying out and degrading because of a lack of rainfall. It is often due to the rain water draining out through gullies and the simple solution is to ‘plug’ the gullies so that moisture is retained in the bog. The UNs Global Peatland Initiative has brought the worlds leading scientists together to understand how best to restore peatlands and Ark2030, along with multiple stakeholders on the ground in the UK, is utilising the newly developed Peatland Code Carbon Credits to fund this critical work across the country.

“If we can engage every professional firm and their business clients in the UK with a net-zero programme, starting with an immediate commitment to offset with Peatland Code Carbon Credits, we will have a huge impact on the nations Climate targets, as well as restore one of the most beautiful environments on our doorstep.”

It turns the net-zero aspiration – which has become complex and difficult to imagine – into something that is inspirational and worthwhile. 

To register your interest go to: nbscarbonexchange.com

Non-financial reporting: where are we headed?

What are the challenges that companies face when it comes to non-financial reports, where can improvements be made, and what does the future hold?

Insights special: Non-financial reporting

Recommended content

A megaphone
Stay up to date

You can receive email update from ICAEW insights either daily, weekly or monthly, subscribe to whichever works for you.

Sign up
Resources from across ICAEW on non-financial reporting.
Non-financial reporting

Resources and guidance on non-financial reporting, including the strategic report, director’s report and sustainability disclosures.

Read more
Daily summaries
Three yellow pins planted into a surface in a row
News in brief

Read ICAEW's daily summary of accountancy news from across the mainstream media and broader financing sector.

See more