Alison Gowman on the part Livery Companies are playing in the journey to net zero

Everyone has a part to play if we are to mitigate the impact of climate change on our City. To reduce carbon emissions and ensure we meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, keeping world temperature rise below 1.5 degrees, is critical to a thriving and healthy City and economy. That is the view of the City of London Corporation who set their Climate Action Strategy in October 2020 not only for its own emissions but also ambitiously is exhorting the whole Square Mile to reach net zero by 2040.

I have recently taken up the role as the City’s policy lead to provide guidance and scrutiny of the Corporation’s actions and plans. The first goal is to be net zero by 2027 for the direct (scope 1 and 2) emissions of the City Corporation. The second is to be net zero in its full value chain by 2040 – alongside the whole City.

When the Corporation’s plan was launched, a group of Livery members saw the need to shape the Livery Companies’ actions to meet the net zero goal. The Livery Climate Action Group (LCAG) was founded with a dynamic website, stuffed full of guidance, protocols and ideas.

Some of you reading this might not be familiar with the 111 City Livery Companies that form a key network of people committed to the City of London and the Lord Mayor – but also representing their particular craft, trade or profession and promoting that alongside good fellowship and exceptional charitable giving (last recorded as a total of £75 million per annum). With the Livery Companies being physically present in the City whether as property owners and investors, or as visitors and frequent users of the Livery Halls owned by others, the Livery has a role to play in reducing carbon emissions and acting to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Most of the Liveries can be classified as SMEs – albeit not established as profit making businesses. Each has a relatively small footprint, if without a Livery Hall, but they have a huge voice and influence for advocacy and information. Numbering some 40,000 individuals they can spread ideas nationally and internationally as well as influencing their own specialist professions. For example, the Water Conservators have been running a series of water debates with senior water industry officials as well as academics and users to question the issues of our water and sewage systems. The Constructors provided a full response to a government consultation on green skills and the Skinners’ and Merchant Taylors’ Liveries have both vied to improve their own Livery Halls with the least carbon emissions within listed buildings. A group of Liveries formed the Green Aviation Task Group to use pan Livery expertise from air pilots and engineers to banking and scientific measurement in order to scrutinise and seek to resolve the issue of sustainable flying.

LCAG have held two in person conferences with our next one later this year and run regular seminars (mostly online) about diverse subjects such as power purchase agreements, sustainable food and how the military are adapting to climate change. We are above all a self-help group that builds on ideas and methods to create a force for good.
The likely impact faced by the City of London is universal but the City’s links to its businesses, residents, civil society organisations as well as visitors means that it is able to influence, guide and assist all its stakeholders to engage in the existential challenge that climate change poses. The collaborative work of the Livery Companies is one amazing example of what purposeful collective action can achieve.

Alderman Alison Gowman is founder and chair of the Livery Climate Action Group