Posted: 17 Jun. 2021 5 min. read

Climate Change

Collaborating for a more sustainable future

Climate change has become one of the biggest challenges for our world and unlike some other problems facing society, climate change is a truly global issue, something that affects all of our lives.

Here at Deloitte, we are focusing our efforts on ensuring that we as an organisation are on course to reduce emissions and meet net zero targets.

We understand the next decade will be crucial and action is needed locally as well as globally. For Deloitte, that means actively contributing to regional efforts and playing a key role in accelerating and driving the Climate Change agenda in Northern Ireland. Our main efforts are focused on working with Business in the Community on their Climate Pledge Initiative and also working with the Belfast Climate Commission. 

In 2019, Belfast City Council signed a Climate Emergency declaration establishing the Belfast Climate Commission; a proactive, direct response at a local level. I was honoured to be asked to take a seat on the commission and my fellow members are drawn from other key organisations and groups across the city from the public, private and civic sectors.

The aim of the commission is to act as a think tank or a ‘critical friend’. It is an independent voice, providing authoritative policy advice to local stakeholders and decision makers on steps towards a low carbon, climate resilient future.

Last year the commission authored the Net Zero Carbon Roadmap for Belfast. The road map lays out the current situation and proposes ways in which we as a city can meet targets set out around Net Zero. The figures and key messages are quite stark laying out clearly that radical action is required and we are all going to have to change how we live and consume if we are to meet these targets.  As such, it’s important for all of us who live in Northern Ireland to familiarise ourselves with these figures and understand what is required from us, individually and collectively, if we are to help in the race against climate change.

Globally, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that we will have used up the global carbon budget that gives us a good chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C degrees within a decade. This science underpins calls for the declaration of a climate emergency.

If we divide the global carbon budget up by population, it gives Belfast a total carbon budget of 14 million tonnes from 2020 for 10 years or 1.4million tonnes per year. Based only on the fuel and electricity used within its boundaries, Belfast currently emits c.1.5 million tonnes of carbon a year, and as such by 2030, it would be over budget by 1.5million tonnes. This assessment does not include its Scope 3 emissions – things like long distance travel and consumption of goods and services produced elsewhere. Change is possible, but those numbers indicate clearly that we need to make a contribution to the fight again climate change sooner rather than later.

Of course, we should acknowledge that there has been progress. In Belfast we have reduced our Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 42% since 2000. With on-going efforts and population growth predictions, it is projected that Belfast’s 2000 level of annual emissions output will have fallen by a total of 51% by 2050.

However, this progress needs to accelerate. If our city is to stay within its carbon budget, Belfast needs to add to the emissions reductions already achieved to secure 66% reductions on its 2000 level of emissions by 2025, 80% by 2030, 88% by 2035, 93% by 2040, 97% by 2045 and 100% by 2050. That means the majority of all emissions reductions across the city need to be delivered within the next ten years. 

So, what are the options open to the city for reducing our emissions? Well, the big ones are retrofitting our homes and offices to make them more energy efficient and encouraging more sustainable methods of transport – including a major move from car to cycling and a shift to electric vehicles. If we choose to adopt these options that are available to us we will see a drop of only 51% by 2050. That means if we are to achieve the targets set out by the IPCC of net zero by 2050, we need to introduce some significant and innovative stretch measures for Belfast.

These will need to be properly developed in each area but examples from other global cities include a full transition to net-zero homes and public/commercial buildings by 2030, tackling food waste, reducing meat and dairy consumption and reducing concrete and steel consumption/promoting adoption of green infrastructure. 

Deloitte is aware of the Climate challenges facing our communities, cities and world. Our firm is focused on providing innovative solutions and combining our skills to help clients tackle their biggest environmental risks. We’re investing in our sustainability services to help industries think systemically about the changes needed, whether through responsible finance, decarbonisation strategies, or carbon reporting. We’re working to help reduce emissions throughout the entire value chains of organisations – including our own, but there is still work to be done.

Of course, this is about much, much more than a single company and our efforts. If we are to meet the Global Targets set out, businesses globally must work together to reach them.

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Key contact

Jackie Henry

Jackie Henry

Office Senior Partner

Jackie is lead partner for Deloitte in Northern Ireland and UK people and Purpose lead for the consulting business. She has over 30 experience of supporting the transformational change of Northern Ireland, in particular within the public sector. In 2017 she was recognised with an MBE in the Queens birthday honours for her services to the Northern Ireland economy, she is chair of the Department of the Economy Skills Advisory Working Group advising on the new skills strategy for NI and she is a Visiting Professor of Ulster University. She is also a passionate advocate of diversity and inclusion.