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.
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 windfarms 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 pointed 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.
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, represents a gold standard for net zero targets and eliminates 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.
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 exists, and it really goes back to the basics of what good business and good investment is. 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.
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.