Rethinking net zero: How the power is in the hands of business leaders
Dr Roger Gewolb, fair finance campaigner, business entrepreneur, broadcaster, and geopolitics/economics trends expert analyses the growth opportunities and challenges of net zero, its impact on businesses and the next industrial revolution.
The world is in a real state of turmoil, which is undoubtedly going to affect all businesses. Many businesses are currently experiencing significant social and economic shifts and changes. However, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and net zero have the potential to fundamentally transform our industries and our lives.
We are witnessing a remarkable integration of cutting-edge technologies such as AI, robotics, blockchain, and biotechnology. These advancements are rapidly transforming the way we do business, live, work, and communicate with each other. The fast-paced world of business is driven by innovation. It pushes industries forward and opens new opportunities for companies. Politicians make decisions that impact businesses on a daily basis – some positive, many less so.
Organisations and businesses often lack a proper strategy to interact with this and Government and politicians tend to seek help from public affairs only when they are in a crisis. On the other hand, the most successful organisations take an active part in the political world, forming alliances and vigorously advocating for their causes.
In light of these emerging technologies, business leaders and executives are actively preparing for extensive transformations in their operational frameworks. As we stand at the forefront of what could be a new industrial revolution, businesses are conscious of the need to adapt to the changing landscape. Innovation due to AI and the Green Revolution are set to alter the way in which businesses operate, and it is important that executives and leaders remain vigilant and well-informed to capitalise on the opportunities they could generate.
What experts call the next industrial revolution has the potential to generate trillions of dollars. Should we disregard it simply because climate change has become a political ideology?
Net zero through a business lens
At the Tory conference, Theresa May emphasised that achieving net zero should not be viewed as a cost to be minimised, but rather as the growth opportunity of the century. This revolution could help generate £1trn for British businesses by the end of this decade.
Many people believe that it could bring significant financial gains as current methods of generating energy are unsustainable and resources are not infinite. Although there is fear around this transformation, it is essential to realise that it could be an opportunity for growth rather than a cost to be reduced. Rishi Sunak having delayed it, one must ask if further U-turns are actually better for businesses or not.
Companies have been responding to consumer demands for more sustainable products and services and have been looking for ways to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and other materials that are damaging the environment. I am not a climate change activist, but I know well that companies will become less sustainable and profitable in the long term. However, the idea of completely replacing the 150-year-old fossil fuel infrastructure with clean energy by 2050 seems to be unrealistic and overly ambitious to me. Recent reports have pointed out several issues with the renewables illusion, including the complexity and costs of the task, the toxicity of rare earth mining, and the scarcity of critical minerals.
I recommend that the entire climate change debate as well as the political ideology behind it should be analysed from a purely business perspective. Economists warned Sunak that his net zero U-turn may have negative economic consequences for ordinary people and also cost Britain jobs. Experts from top UK universities claimed that accelerating net zero would create jobs and attract business investment.
Net zero economics
Where is the truth and what do business leaders think? The UK Government’s Net Zero Growth Plan, published in March 2023, stated how “energy security and net zero are two sides of the same coin.” Let’s forget about all the commitment to mitigate climate change that is essential and the overall costs and risks of global warming and the loss in GDP that could cause. We all want cheaper household bills.
Unlike the USA and others, the UK is still reliant on imported fossil fuels. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine resulted in a volatile international energy market, and the only way to lower the cost of energy for both households and businesses is to replace them with cheaper, domestic sources of energy. Do you see what I have done here? I did not include ‘cleaner’, I only want to focus on the economic benefits of net zero.
About 85% of the industry uses fossil fuel-powered boilers to create heat or steam. Burning fossil fuels to generate heat used to be the simplest and cheapest thing to do. I am not debating how dirty it is here, but could we have something much cheaper to run than gas boilers, which can even provide us with free hot water?
The UK Government’s transition to a green and sustainable future was focused on providing new opportunities for growth, while “supporting hundreds of thousands of green, high skilled jobs.” The policies, they wrote “will help leverage around £100bn of private investment as we develop new industries and innovative low carbon technologies, and our ambitions will support up to 480,000 jobs in 2030.”
Every business leader needs to decide how much of this they believe, and adjust their forecast operations accordingly, but adjust they most certainly must!
Dr Roger Gewolb is a leading fair financial expert, entrepreneur and broadcaster. He’s also a champion of fairness throughout the consumer finance industry and a regular contributor to some of the biggest media outlets worldwide.