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A Collective Ambition for Change

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By Robert Lloyd Griffiths OBE, Director for Wales for ICAEW

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I have no doubt that nobody will argue that widespread change on the journey to net zero can only be achieved through collective action but how can we create a thriving economy (and society) based on what nature can actually afford?

The first all Wales plan for emissions reduction Net Zero Wales sets out a ‘Team Wales’ effort. This means government, communities and businesses working together to change how we travel, what energy we use and the steps that we take to off-set our carbon emissions. We’ve got to give our natural world a proper chance to prosper.

Business as usual is not an option any longer and we all have a role to play which is why I was particularly pleased to meet with Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner, earlier this week and reaffirm our commitment to working together on matters right at the heart of Welsh life.

Here at ICAEW, we were the first major professional body to announce we would  become carbon neutral, which we achieved in 2020. We began our journey in 2015; since then, we have measured, set ourselves targets and taken small steps to reduce our impact on the environment.

To support other organisations that are taking steps to go carbon neutral, we’ve published a range of resources to share what we’ve learnt. In November our annual report on the topic looked at some of the measures we’ve taken so far, and what we will do next.

We were also pleased to join the Net Zero Accountancy Initiative, which launched in April. The initiative marks a major step forward in the accountancy profession’s journey toward net zero greenhouse gas emissions. It puts the tools for action on the climate crisis into the hands of accountancy practices with a profession-wide protocol that provides a clear and consistent path by which firms can reach net zero and a common standard against which they can be certified. The initiative includes a sector-specific digital platform to calculate their carbon emissions, set targets, get tailored reduction plans and compensate for unavoidable emissions.

The climate action platform Net Zero Now developed the accountancy initiative with ICAEW,   Sage, ACCA, AAT and the Good Business Charter, to makes it easier and more cost-effective for businesses of all sizes to take action on the climate crisis. The resources are freely available at www.netzeronow.org/accountants

Of course, compared to other sectors with a more complex carbon footprint, it’s relatively simple for accountancy firms to get to net zero. The key emissions sources for the profession are energy for offices, employee commuting and business travel and IT equipment but our 3,500 members in Wales still have an enormous role to play in the transition of our economy to net zero – both through reducing their own emissions and in guiding clients through their own sustainability accounting requirements.

It is joined up initiatives like Net Zero Now, with integrated thinking, expertise and action that will stop the planet from over-heating. We need to see a united response by governments, businesses and regulators so it is encouraging that governments are also now working on common taxation policies to help reduce carbon emissions.

This is an important step forward that has the real potential to drive a shift in behaviour, particularly as tax authorities haven’t, as yet, introduced any significant carbon taxes. It also gives governments another route to raising taxes that will help budgets in the wake of the pressures on public finances.

In the meantime, businesses in Wales aren’t waiting for any new tax on greenhouse gas emissions. They’re doing what they do best – forging ahead and making changes in line with Welsh Government policies.

The journey to net zero is a collective responsibility. It needs to start now.