Irish businesses are getting nervous about the 2030 climate goalsVish Gainon April 22, 2022 at 11:05 Silicon RepublicSilicon Republic

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Irish business leaders are losing confidence in their ability to meet the 2030 climate targets, according to a new EY Ireland sustainability report.

Four in five Irish businesses, or 80pc, say that they can live up to carbon neutral targets for 2030 that eventually aim to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 in accordance with the Paris climate agreement.

With less than eight years to go to meet the deadline, there is now more apprehension around the issue than there was last year, when 64pc of respondents said they lacked confidence in meeting the targets. However, awareness of sustainability issues has seen a small rise.

Stephen Prendiville, EY Ireland’s head of sustainability, thinks the doubtfulness has to do with the fact that Irish businesses are now looking more closely at their carbon ambitions and have gained “a deeper awareness” of the challenges that come with the transformation.

“Business leaders are also facing headwinds amidst the ongoing energy and inflation crisis and challenging geopolitical issues,” he said of the report’s findings. “These factors, combined with less time to achieve the 2030 goals, mean that we are seeing lower confidence reported.”

Compliance, not good for the environment, has emerged as the number one reason behind the motivation for Irish business to ramp up sustainability measures. 28pc of respondents said they believed compliance was the biggest motivating factor, almost double the figure last year.

Meanwhile, those who think their businesses is stepping up sustainability efforts for the sake of the environment fell behind at 25pc – up from 22pc last year. While slightly troubling from a moral perspective, this goes on to show that policies that ensure compliance are working.

Prendiville is not surprised. Because the regulatory landscape has been “evolving quickly” with a “lot of implications being discussed”, he thinks it is only natural for companies to be worried about compliance – with many possibly waiting for regulations before deciding their sustainability plans.

“What is interesting is that no one surveyed sees ‘the ability to grow profit’ as a key factor in their sustainability efforts. It’s imperative that businesses don’t rely on regulation alone and seek to understand more clearly the long-term business value of sustainability and net zero strategies,” he said.

One of the positives of this compliance-focused approach, according to the report, has been the fact that 62pc of respondents now think there has been a significant increase in sustainability related activity in their businesses in the last year, particularly in the adoption of science-based targets.

Irish businesses are also less concerned that they are not doing enough for sustainability in general, at 16pc – down from last year’s 25pc. Only 16pc of respondents believe they’re not taking sustainability seriously enough.

“The biggest concern in the results is the predominant sense among Irish businesses that they are doing enough when it comes to sustainability,” said Prendiville. “Simply put, we need to do more.”

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