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Urgency: time to build sustainability into economic decisions

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 14 Jun 2021

With COP26 on climate and COP15 on biodiversity around the corner, and time running out to take action, there is little wonder that significant G7 time was committed to these topics. But was there enough real commitment behind the conversation?

The Carbis Bay G7 Summit resulted in agreement for participating nations to work together to achieve global action. Health, economic recovery, free and fair trade, future frontiers, climate and the environment, gender equality and global responsibility were all on the table.

As expected, the commitment to halve emissions by 2030 and net-zero by 2050 at the latest was restated, with a call for businesses to play their part by setting science-based targets and joining the UN’s Race to Zero campaign. The sectors that will be targeted first are: energy generation and distribution; transport; heavy industry; homes and buildings; and agriculture, forestry and land use.

On energy generation, the commitment to net-zero in the 2030s was formalised but there was no detail announced on plans for transport and industry, nor for agriculture, forestry and land use. “This is a shame and leaves us still in the land of ambition,” says Richard Spencer, Director, Technical Thought Leadership, ICAEW.

“On homes and buildings there is a recognition of the urgency of the need for action ‘in the deployment of renewable heating and cooling and reduction in energy demand’,” he says. “The UK's own Heat & Buildings Strategy is due in the coming weeks and we look forward to seeing some details there.”

In terms of financing, the G7 will endeavour to get back on track to achieve the $100bn a year pledged to help developing countries decarbonise and adapt. “The $100bn was a pledge made at Paris that the G7 has failed to deliver. Oxfam estimates the G7’s current commitments would deliver $36bn by 2025, of which less than $10bn would be for climate adaptation,” says Spencer, disappointed that nothing further was announced at the Summit.

The commitment to mandatory reporting in line with TCFD was detailed again by the G7. One key aspect of the TCFD framework is scenario analysis, and that businesses must quantify risks at a range of warming trajectories – one of the trickiest bits of the framework. “This is where ICAEW can make a huge difference – by enabling and encouraging our members to become ‘climate competent’,” says Spencer.

“Nevertheless, it is wonderful to see biodiversity loss on the table,” says Spencer. “The G7 Communique sees all nations committing to conserving or protecting at least 30% of land and ocean by 2030. This is likely to be formalised and adopted by further nations at the UN’s 15th biodiversity COP. There is a commitment to increase financing for nature-based solutions, conservation and restoration by 2025 to support this, but again no details.”

He is emphatic that it would be good to see the G7 leading other nations by committing to build sustainability into economic decision-making, but it’s vital this extends globally, especially to countries where the richness of our biodiversity exists.

“We agree with the Dasgupta review that we must change our economic models to look beyond traditional measurements of value, to include natural, social and human capital, which for too long have been excluded from economic and business decisions. We hope the commitments from this summit will be followed up quickly with concrete action.”

All in all, he comments, we’re still waiting on details and plans. After all, most businesses want a destination and roadmap – aspiration is not enough.

As part of its ongoing commitment to sustainability, ICAEW has now created the Sustainability and Climate Change Community. Its purpose is to provide inspiration, insights and collective ambition for professionals delivering on sustainability and acting on climate change. Join for free today.