Net Zero is a hot topic of conversation, but what does it actually mean? According to the Energy Saving Trust it is “Achieving a balance between the carbon emitted into the atmosphere, and the carbon removed from it. This balance – or net zero – will happen when the amount of carbon we add to the atmosphere is no more than the amount removed.”

As around a quarter of all global carbon emissions comes from transportation, it’s clearly something everyone in our sector should all have an eye on. Therefore, when we received an invite to attend the 2023 Net Zero Festival, we thought we better head on down and see what the key movers and shakers were saying, or more importantly doing, about it.

The event which took place at the Business Design Centre was organised by Business Green who brought together over 3,500 delegates across the two-day event. Attendees included a collection of business leaders, policymakers, innovators, regulators, the media and many more. 

Ground Transport Group were kindly invited down with our media hat on, and we certainly enjoyed listening in to a stellar lineup made up of over 150 expert speakers, which included former Downing Street director of communications and spokesman for the Labour Party Allistair Cambell who would close the show on day one.

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Earlier that morning, the event had some unexpected guests in the form of protestors from the environmental movement Extinction Rebellion. James Murray, the editor-in-chief of BusinessGreen tweeted saying, “Just had a nice chat with one of the activists from Extinction Rebellion who was lovely.”

He continued by saying, “We obviously disagree on the value of net zero as a concept and have different theories of change, but we agree on the goal of tackling the climate crisis as urgently as possible.”

An Extinction Rebellion flyer I found in the press room stated; “There is not enough room on the planet for the amount of trees multinationals like Amazon, Nestle and Shell have promised to plant!”. And assuming that is true, the approach of holding companies to task over their pledges is certainly something that should be taken very seriously. 

Back to the event, and one of the key themes throughout the various panel sessions I dropped in on, was the ongoing battle between reducing emissions vs offsetting emissions. 

Many of the panellists and speakers argued that we need to do more than just corporate carbon offsetting – where companies use credits for the purpose of offsetting what they are emitting. 

During a panel session that featured the Head of Climate & Sustainability from Coca-Cola Europacific Partners Sam Jones as one of the expert speakers, a protestor from Plastics Rebellion took to the stage and poured two cans of coke over himself whilst telling the audience “Net Zero is greenwashing”.

I’m not sure where that sits in terms of a “peaceful protest”, however it would have been a lot less peaceful if the protestor gave the panellists a soda-soaking, so I guess some credit must be applied for the self-inflicted stunt! 

As an event organiser myself, I know the sheer amount of time and effort the BusinessGreen team would have gone through organising such an impressive event. However, the protests didn’t appear to cause too much disruption and thankfully the event continued. 

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There was a lot of “we need to do more”, both from a grassroots perspective, but also aimed at the government and regulators above us, and it’s interesting to hear different sides of the debate. 

On one hand, most of us feel the impact of the cost of living crisis where it seems like everything from the cost of a weekly shop skyrocketing, to vastly increasing interest rates for mortgage payments, makes life a bit more difficult to navigate financially. 

On the other hand you have got many big businesses suggesting the Government and the regulators need to do much more. With some suggesting mandating standards, rather than settling for simply making suggestions. 

I’m glad I’m not at number 10, but there needs to be a sweet-spot somewhere where all aspects of society can move forward together to ensure we look after our planet. 

Day two of the festival culminated in a fascinating fireside chat with Actress, Author and Activist Joanna Lumley. During her session #LumleyforPM was trending within the event app, and Joanna’s unfiltered opinions went down well with the audience who clearly respected her for calling it as she sees it! 

With COP28 kicking off in the UAE in a couple of weeks time, we hope there will be plenty of honest calling it as people see it there too. All eyes will be on the world’s leaders in what can only be described as a crucial moment for global climate action, and the world’s media will be watching on. 

At Ground Transport Group, we are pleased to work alongside many people and businesses who are passionate about making the transportation sector a cleaner and greener place. We will always use our community to move things forward and will continue to welcome new collaborators, new infinitives and new ideas.

For more from the event visit: the Net Zero Festival 2023 website. Thank you to BusinessGreen for inviting us along! 

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