Business leaders from Surrey were left in no doubt about the need for action rather than words to tackle decarbonisation and build a green economy.

At the latest Spotlight on Surrey event curated by Surrey County Council and delivered by Business South, experts spoke about everything from creating energy from food waste to biodiversity and the role businesses can play.

Setting the scene for the online event, Surrey Council’s interim Deputy Chief Executive Michael Coughlin said following the pandemic, climate change is once again being seen as the challenge that must now be addressed.

“This seems to be the perfect time to hold this event looking at how we might go about balancing a thriving economy with a greener future and sustainable economy,” he said.

During the webinar, which included a live question and answer session, hosted by BBC Health Correspondent Alastair Fee, polls were held to check the business pulse when it came to green matters.

The results were:

  • Unanimous agreement that everybody has a role to play in achieving net zero carbon by 2050
  • Most businesses and organisations saw energy supply as a priority
  • Businesses said achieving net zero was a top priority

Cabinet member for the environment, Councillor Marisa Heath explained Surrey County Council is leading by example and will examine every element of their operation to ensure they are hitting carbon zero by 2030.

“We are not a huge carbon emitter but we will be looking at everything from schools and all our other buildings to how staff travel to work.

“We know there is some confusion out there and while there might be a willingness to adopt new greener practices, people aren’t always quite sure what to do.

“Our role is to help people to make those changes and our priority is to get partnership engagement,” she said.

Kate Norgrove said: “Businesses depend on a stable climate, predictable supply chains and functioning ecosystems for their ongoing and future viability. You can’t do effective, profitable long-term business on a dead planet.

“Business has an incredibly important and transformational role to play in tackling the climate and nature crisis.”

Vice Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Conservation, Chris Grayling MP, said the move to all electric vehicles presented a challenge for the county.

“Our number one priority is for all councils in Surrey to have a really detailed strategy to get on-street charging in place,” he said.

Steve Sharratt OBE Director DBE Energy said every ton of food waste that is treated to create biogas saves a ton of CO2.

Ben Sawford, Vice President Global of Kellogg Brown & Root said the pace of change was fast and highlighted that Tesla was the most popular car sold in the UK last month.

“Technology and appliance of science is key if we are to have a bold, green sustainable future,” he said.

Dr Kat Bruce Chief Technical Officer & Founder Nature Metrics said biodiversity is now being taken seriously.

“Nature has to be accounted for,” she said.

Dr Laurie Parsons Lecturer of Human Geography at Royal Holloway said that while emissions were at 1890s levels in the UK, CO2 levels were going up globally. He said the effect of shifting manufacturing to the other side of the world was having a dramatic effect on the planet.

“Since 1990 we have really significantly moved large parts of our manufacturing base outside of the country and with it we have moved really significant amounts of our emissions,” he said.

Andy Swift, Business South Champion Director Surrey, said: “Business South has worked with Surrey Council on three Spotlight on Surrey events so far. They have all had excellent speakers delivering thought provoking content and have been well attended”

“We look forward to developing additional engagement opportunities with the business community in conjunction with Surrey County Council as part of our continuing relationship.”

The event can be watched in full here