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29th November 2023

Businesses Still Struggling To Understand Net-Zero Target

On the eve of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 28) in Dubai, a ground-breaking survey of 1,000 businesses – mostly SMEs – by the British Chambers of Commerce Insight’s Unit shows 40% of companies don’t know any details about the UK’s net zero target.   

  • 7% are not aware of the UK government’s target at all, while 33% are aware but know no details. Last year 13% were not aware, and 48% had no details.
  • There is business uncertainty about the impact of the UK’s net-zero policy changes announced in September. Around a quarter (24%) say the postponement of various targets will have a negative impact, while a third (31%) say the postponement will have a positive effect on their business.
  • Around a quarter (24%) of firms report some form of exposure to severe weather events.

Over 1,000 businesses were surveyed for the research, with 96% of respondents SMEs. Similar research last year showed 61% of firms either not aware or having limited knowledge of the Government’s targets.

This latest data once again reveals wide divergences between smaller and larger firms in their understanding and preparedness for net zero. 43% of firms with fewer than 10 employees say they don’t know any details about the target compared to 26% of firms with more than 50 employees.

The research is published as the British Chambers of Commerce delegation of 60 businesses prepares to head to COP28 later this week.  Led by Director General Shevaun Haviland and Chair Sarah Howard, the team will take part in a series of events working in partnership with the British Chamber of Commerce Abu Dhabi. The delegation will meet UK and global politicians and take part in policy discussions, including on energy transition.

Representatives from several UK chambers will also be at the international climate conference.

Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce said: 

“On the eve of COP28 our research should be a huge reality check to politicians.

“There is a huge challenge ahead to raise awareness in the business community about the UK’s 2050 net-zero target. Many firms are simply unaware of it, or have only a cursory understanding.

“Business must be at the heart of tackling climate change. The Chamber network is working hard every day to improve understanding among our members, but companies need clear leadership from politicians.

“Firms are calling out for a consistent net-zero framework that is clearly explained to them. The transition to Net Zero provides businesses with huge opportunities to grow and diversify. But awareness is key.

“From flooding to heatwaves, a significant number of companies are now telling us severe weather is having a real impact on their business. Standing still on tackling climate change is no longer an option.

“We want three outcomes from COP28. We need clarity of frameworks to drive action. We need to see action to prepare for increasing exposure to severe weather events around the world. And finally, we want to see more support for the innovation and expansion of green technologies.”

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