Rolls-Royce chief regrets joining race to Zero

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Rolls-Royce chief regrets joining race to Zero

The boss of Rolls-Royce regrets signing up to a government-backed net zero initiative ahead of the Cop 26 climate summit.

Warren East, the company's chief executive, has tried to position the aircraft engine maker as a green leader by making engines ready for more sustainable fuels and lobbying ministers to back his plans to build a number of small nuclear power stations.

But this week he told an audience of bankers, investors and business executives in London that he regretted joining the Race to Zero pledge because of the bureaucracy involved.

The United Nations said thousands of cities, businesses, and universities will commit to zero emissions by the year 2050. Organisations joining the climate coalition are only admitted after being vetted on their plans.

Under East's leadership since 2015, Rolls-Royce has made a commitment to tackling emissions, recently announcing it will run business jets on hydrogen by the end of the decade. When asked what help the private sector needed to reach net zero this week, he railed at what he perceived as a burden on reporting of emissions cuts.

He told an audience at the Economist's Sustainability Week conference in London that policy needs to give industry enough flexibility to react to opportunities, and to change as things change.

The stringent measurement, reporting and spurious accuracy required by the regulatory environment causes friction and slows everything down. He added that sometimes, over the last couple of years since we signed up to Race to Zero, I regret the decision because of the bureaucracy of reporting that s associated with it. He went on to say that the friction of reporting on emissions was a pain The integrity and progress of a wave of corporate net zero emissions targets in recent years is a thorny issue that has attracted the attention of the head of the United Nations. One report found that 25 of the world's biggest firms could not be taken at face value despite the fact that it appointed a task force of experts this year to advise on the targets.

Robert Schuwerk, the US executive director of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, said it was ironic for Rolls-Royce to appear to back out of its net zero pledges, having just made significant progress by considering climate matters in its 2021 financial statements. It would be prudent for Rolls-Royce to follow through on its pledges because of the impact of climate change and the energy transition on the company's future. East said he stood by the decision to sign up to the climate campaign despite the fact that he expressed his regret. It was the right thing to do, and we have a big problem to solve, said the chief executive who is retiring at the end of the year.

He said that the company was committed to helping the transition to net zero. The accounting and technical reporting that surrounds greenhouse gas emissions for businesses is still evolving. He said that he wanted to see more alignment on standards and more consistency on how and where companies report their progress, such as that generated by the Science Based Targets Initiative.