Over the last year the urgency in tackling climate change has become even clearer and there are strong indications that this direction of travel will continue.
The climate emergency will drive change across the world and force a more sustainable approach to business. Businesses will be subjected to greater control and regulation to reduce their impact on the environment, including in the workplace. However, while the prediction remains that these rights will be introduced in the UK too, it will probably be a few years away.
With government appetite for regulatory intervention limited in the shorter term, pressure on businesses to act to combat climate change and reduce harmful emissions will increasingly be applied by numerous stakeholders, including employees, trade unions, customers and investors. The importance that people (and especially the younger generations) attach to the climate emergency is apparent from Deloitte’s 2022 annual survey of Gen Z and Millennialswhich reported that for both Gen Z and millennials climate change was the second greatest concern (after the cost of living). This pressure will ultimately drive increased regulation and changing employer behaviours, notwithstanding conflicting pressure from some groups opposed to increased regulation or employer intervention for a variety of reasons. This opposition is particularly apparent today in the US but is increasing in the UK. As the effects of climate change become ever more apparent, the urgency of action is likely to overcome these objections.
While a legal right to control one’s environment remains some way off in the UK, the introduction of a right to be informed and consulted about the environmental impact of one’s work and one’s employer’s business, is probably closer.
Pressure to increase regulation and change employer behaviours to combat climate change may be delayed for a number of reasons
- the impact on jobs in the coal, oil and gas industries
- a belief that fossil fuels remain important in keeping down energy prices
- a belief fossil fuels remain important in delivering energy security
- hostility to so-called “red-tape” regulation in principle
- climate change denial