James Murray explains the concept behind the world's first Net Zero Festival - and why all businesses should get involved
It had not been planned. When COP26 President Claire O'Neill spoke at the BusinessGreen Leaders Summit in October and called for the UK's green business community to deliver a series of festivals across the country that would help drive a celebratory, optimistic "year of climate action" in the run up to the Glasgow Summit, she was not to know we were already working on plans to do precisely that.
A little over a month later we are delighted to today confirm the date for what we are pretty sure will be the world's first Net Zero Festival - an unapologetically bold celebration of the net zero transition and the immense opportunities it offers to build a cleaner, healthier, sustainable, and prosperous economy for all.
We've got The Brewery in Moorgate booked for September 30th next year and there is space to host a raft of fringe events during the surrounding week. The aim can be boiled down to the two word strap line for the event: 'Faster, Together'.
Yes, it is a conscious nod to the old African proverb about how 'if you want to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together'. But it is also the essence of BusinessGreen's mission and our successful Net Zero Now campaign. A recognition that we are for the green economy, but that the climate and environmental crisis can only be tackled if all businesses become green businesses. If we move faster, together.
As such, we are aiming to bring together hundreds of business leaders and a host of A-list speakers to jointly explore and advance the biggest and most exciting economic transformation in human history - the rapid shift to a fully decarbonised economy within three decades.
We'll be announcing a lot more details about the Festival, our four planned streams - currently focused on Net Zero Leadership, Net Zero Innovation, Net Zero Culture, and Net Zero Action - and the accompanying fringe in the coming months. But having consulted with over 100 green economy stakeholders we've developed five principles that will shape the Net Zero Festival and its line-up, and which are worth sharing:
Inspirational and actionable - BusinessGreen's mission is to inform, connect, inspire. The Festival will stay true to that core goal. The entire speaker line-up, all the workshops, and the wide-ranging fringe will offer delegates both an inspiring vision of how the net zero transition can be accelerated and actionable insights into how to advance their plans. If you are not interested in developing or enhancing your net zero plans then this event is not for you.
Inclusiveness - We need to go faster, together, and that means everyone. There are theories of change that argue carbon intensive industries should be vilified and banished from the net zero conversation. We understand that impulse, but that is not our model. The Net Zero Festival is for the whole economy - high and low carbon, big and small business, public and private sector. Everyone who is serious about building a net zero emission future is invited.
A global outlook - One of the most common complaints about the UK's net zero goal is to ask, what can one relatively small northern European economy do to tackle a global climate crisis. But such a defeatist attitude completely ignores the historic role the UK played in catalysing the first industrial revolution. The country has the wealth, the skills, and the basic geography to play such a role again. As such, one of the primary aims of the Net Zero Festival is to draw on the power of example, to show how pioneering green businesses and economies can provide a template for others to follow.
Honesty - Averting climate catastrophe and building a net zero economy are challenges that are unprecedented in their scale and scope. No one has all the answers and there is no guarantee of success. Every part of the net zero transition involves complex challenges and controversial trade-offs. We will not shy away from that reality. The Net Zero Festival will offer optimism, but not blind optimism.
It's happening, and that's A Good Thing - The net zero transition is already well underway. The legal targets are in place, many of the necessary technologies exist and are better than the high carbon alternatives they will replace, the policy framework is evolving, the consumer and political pressure is there, and the science is clear. The question for business is not whether they should embark on a net zero transition, but how do they deliver it. That is the critical question the Net Zero Festival aims to help answer.
Delivering an agenda as wide ranging and critically important as this is a big undertaking, even before you consider the fact 2020 is already going to be a huge year for the green economy. That is why we need your help. We want to know who you want to hear from, what net zero challenges you need to overcome, who you want to meet, and where you generate your optimism from. Ultimately, we want you to join us in delivering the year of climate action that Claire O'Neill called for. And beyond that we want you to join us in building the net zero economy that holds the key to all our futures. Faster, together.