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How National Grid Helps Spearhead Decarbonisation in Energy Sector

Learn How National Grid’s Chief Sustainability Officer Is Helping to Spearhead Decarbonisation in the Energy Sector 

If the world wants to fulfil commitments stated in COP26, businesses need to drive real climate action. Read how National Grid is doing that.

If the world is going to fulfil the commitments laid out in COP26, businesses need to step up and drive real climate action – and National Grid is one company that is already leading the charge. At Salesforce, the environment is one of our key stakeholders. That’s why we’re proud to have been a partner of COP26, and why we were excited to discuss the event with Duncan Burt, National Grid’s Chief Sustainability Officer and the driving force behind the business’ involvement in the global decarbonisation movement.

As a former Operations Director, what was the logic behind your jump to Chief Sustainability Officer?

It wasn’t actually as unusual a journey as you might think. National Grid has been heavily involved with sustainability for the last 15 years. We’ve been connecting a lot of the UK’s wind farms and other renewable energies, which have gotten the country to what is now 50% zero-carbon generation. A lot of my time has been spent pushing to help make that happen, so it was natural for me to move across into the broader advocacy and decarbonisation work around COP26.

Tell us more about your involvement with COP26

Over the last 18 months, National Grid has been doing a lot of work in the background for the Glasgow conference, and I’ve been driving that engagement. We’ve been supporting the UK government’s diplomacy internationally by collaborating with peer organisations around the world, such as power grid operators in Indonesia and South Africa. The UK has been the fastest decarbonising economy in the G20 over the last 20 years, and nearly all of that is to do with the decarbonisation of the power grid. So, we’ve been able to share what we’ve learned with other countries that are earlier in their journeys.

Which COP26 project are you most proud of?

The culmination of our work with the UK government has been our role in the Green Grids Initiative, which was launched by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the World Leaders Summit. The goal of the project is to decarbonise India, and it has a whole host of follow-throughs with both the Indian grids and our co-sponsor, International Solar Alliance.

Following the event, what are your thoughts on the outlook for climate action?

I’m very optimistic. Going into the conference, the major concern was whether we would keep the momentum going from the Paris Agreement and see the level of consolidation needed to keep the target of a 1.5-degree warming limit within sight. It’s an ambitious goal, but COP26 was an encouraging step forward with new agreements and net zero declarations. If governments and businesses now get on and deliver on their commitments, we have a workable plan to get the global temperature below two degrees of warming, which is a massive achievement.

Most media attention for COP26 focused on governments, but what can you tell us about the business angle?

There was a huge business presence at COP26, and that’s one reason why I’m so optimistic. The UK government expected 15,000 attendees in Glasgow, but the number ended up closer to 53,000. Most of these people weren’t part of the main event but were on the fringes having big conversations around future investment. It’s clear that business and money are now pointing at sorting out this problem in a way that has scaled up massively over the last two years. This is the kind of business involvement that made the UK’s 50% emissions reduction possible, so I think that the same level of investment globally will deliver results faster than people expect.

What advice would you give other businesses looking to do more to tackle climate change?

Aim for net zero carbon emissions, and do it in a meaningful way. Both National Grid and Salesforce have joined a number of efforts such as Race to Zero and Science Based Targets, which provide a clear path to net zero by 2050, which Salesforce has already achieved, with minimal offsetting. Science Based Targets, in particular, represent a gold standard for net zero targets and eliminate any concerns around greenwashing. We’re pushing our entire supply chain to adopt these targets too, and I’d advise every other business to do the same. Five to ten years ago, decarbonisation efforts were just focused on the energy sector, but now businesses in all industries have an opportunity to get their houses in order and show that they’re on the right path.

Are there any decarbonisation myths that you’d like to debunk?

Going net zero doesn’t cost more money. If you look at things with a more resource-efficient, lower-carbon approach, you’ll probably find it saves money, provides a better customer proposition, and gets you where you need to go faster. Most of the technology businesses need to get to net zero already exist, and it really goes back to the basics of what good business and good investment are. The momentum that comes from companies like Salesforce showing leadership with policies and processes, and standing up to be counted, is just as important as the tech that people tend to concentrate on.

Key takeaways

  • National Grid is playing a central role in energy sector decarbonisation worldwide
  • Following COP26, the world is on track to get below two degrees of global temperature warming – but only if governments and businesses stick to their commitments
  • Businesses in all industries should aim for net zero carbon emissions
  • Going net zero will save businesses money
  • The technology needed to reach net zero already exists

For more on Salesforce’s climate efforts, visit this website. Need help with your sustainability efforts? As a company committed to bold climate action, Salesforce developed a platform to enable our customers to understand their own environmental footprint: Salesforce Net Zero Cloud. Learn more about our commitment to helping our customers on their paths to Net Zero.

Driving Sustainability through Technology Post-COP26

Hear from Duncan Burt, Chief Sustainability Officer, National Grid as he reflects on the outcomes achieved at COP26.


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