Huge opportunities for Hertfordshire SMEs in the wake of COP26

With the highly-anticipated United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) all wrapped up, what has been the takeaway for Hertfordshire businesses and where does the local economy go from here? Helen Pollock, Hert’s IQ’s Enterprise Zone Project Executive, shares her thoughts.

At November’s conference in Glasgow, Britain’s largest businesses were demonstrably leading the global transition to net zero emissions, significant in itself but also in how these changes will filter through the whole supply chain.

Opportunities for Hertfordshire businesses to attract investment, create jobs and lower costs in the green economy are immense.

Confederation of British Industry Director General Tony Danker said: “Record levels of CEO attendance at COP26 indicates that net zero is no longer about reputation, but about commercial opportunity. Businesses are ready, willing and able to deliver a net zero world. Those who fail to embrace net zero will get left behind.”

Race to Zero

Already, 60 FTSE 100 companies and 2,000 small businesses have signed up to the United Nation’s Race to Zero campaign, a global alliance committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Business and Industry Minister Lee Rowley said: “With over 2,500 UK companies joining the Race to Zero, including the majority of our largest firms, the UK is leading the way in showing how going green doesn’t just make sense for the planet – it makes business sense too.”

This is welcome news to Herts IQ who, in partnership with Prologis, secured a visit from the Planet Mark ‘Carbon Battle Bus’ which toured the UK to drum up support for Race to Zero ahead of COP26.

To coincide with the visit, Herts IQ published 10 tips to help your business reach net zero carbon including calculating your carbon footprint and reducing waste.

Finance and Pensions

On Finance Day at COP26, the Chancellor of the Exchequer unveiled plans for the UK to become the first “Net Zero Aligned Financial Centre” where financial institutions and listed companies would be legally required to publish net zero transition plans.

Pensions also came under the spotlight with Work and Pensions Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey saying they could be a superpower that delivers prosperity for people and the planet in the race to net zero. Therefore, businesses who are looking for, and supported by, pension and investment funds, will increasingly need to demonstrate a real and positive social and environmental impact with regards to their investment decisions.

Clean energy

UK-led efforts at COP26 signalled the end of the fossil fuel era with more than 40 countries pledging to phase out coal power while scaling up clean power generation.

Chris Stark, chief executive of the Climate Change Committee, said: “The writing is on the wall for fossil fuels now. We are in a new period of action and if that is the legacy of Glasgow, I will be delighted.”

Under the Government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy, carbon emissions from the UK’s 30 million homes and workplaces will be significantly cut in simple, low-cost and green ways. Initiatives include a Boiler Upgrade Scheme and heat pump grants of up to £5,000. Initiatives will not only save money on energy bills and improve lives but support green skills.

Hertfordshire Growth Hub’s Low Carbon Workspace scheme provides grants to SMEs for measures including insulation, LED lighting, boilers, heat pumps, solar PV and electric vehicles to help SMEs improve energy efficiency.

In addition, the Government’s Energy Technology List names over 14,000 energy efficient plant and machinery products that businesses might want to check out before making a new purchase.

Government policy

COP26 builds on Government strategies, including the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan, which will mobilise £12 billion of government investment to create up to 250,000 highly skilled green jobs.

The UK Net Zero Strategy sets out a clear path to net zero emissions by 2050, leveraging up to £90 billion of private investment by 2030 and securing 440,000 well-paid jobs.

Exporting is encouraged through the Clean Growth programme while bidders for major public sector contracts must now publish a plan to achieve net zero by 2050.

To date, the UK has decarbonised faster than any other G7 country and was the first major economy to commit in law to net zero by 2050. Let’s keep the momentum going!


Herts IQ Stats

  • 46% of business energy consumption happens outside of normal working hours
  • It is worth/buying leasing an Electrical Vehicle if you travel more than UK carbon dioxide emissions from transport were almost 20% lower in 2020 than in 2019.
  • With a correctly-sized and properly installed solar photovoltaics system, your investment should pay for itself in 4-5 years.
  • 65% of people want to work for a company with a strong social conscience, a PWC survey found.

Planet Mark’s Carbon Battle Bus visit to Hemel Hempstead

  • The electric powered Carbon Battle Bus visited 120 towns and cities across the UK, including Hemel Hempstead, in the lead up to COP26, finishing at the conference’s host city, Glasgow.
  • Over 7,500 people have attended Zero Carbon Tour workshop events.
  • Businesses shared their success stories to inspire others to join the Race to Zero make the pledge to cut carbon, take practical actions to achieve this and communicate the results. Sign-up to Race to Zero by visiting
  • Nearly 200 Carbon Stories gather so far. Visit

Race to Zero

  • Businesses commit to halve emissions by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050 at the very latest.
  • A coalition of 733 cities, 31 regions, 3,067 businesses, 173 of the biggest investors, 622 Higher Education Institutions and 120 countries.

SME net zero tools

  • The SME Climate Change Hub and The Carbon Trust Guide have lots of advice to help SMEs halve emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero.
  • Hertfordshire Growth Hub’s ondemand YouTube video helps businesses demonstrate their sustainability measures.
  • SMEs can access funding from Eastern New Energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects via Hertfordshire Growth Hub.
  • Herts IQ’s 10 tips on reaching net zero include only buying from businesses taking action on climate change to switching to a green energy supplier.

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