Net Zero: The Race We Should All Enter
Breaking down the first pillar of the McLaren Racing sustainability report
Net Zero is a popular climate action term that’s made its way into government policies, manufacturing guidelines and sports campaigns. It contributes to several of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and it’s one of the four pillars of McLaren Racing’s sustainability strategy.
But behind the slogans, targets and timelines, what does Net Zero actually mean for our sport, our people and our planet? Here, we break down what it means, why it matters, and what we’re doing at McLaren to reach our Net Zero goals.
A dual approach to cutting emissions
Net Zero doesn’t mean zero emissions. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t rely on fossil fuels or add to the greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere through industrial processes, but we can’t stop climate change overnight. Fossil fuels currently provide 80% of the world’s energy and even with technological advances in renewable energies, it’s clear that tackling climate change demands a long-term commitment to realistic, science-based solutions.
Achieving Net Zero requires a dual approach that reduces our GHG footprint year-on-year, while offsetting unavoidable emissions through measures that remove greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere and permanently store it, such as forest conservation, mangrove restoration and carbon capture and storage technologies.
The ‘net’ in Net Zero makes GHG emissions targets more viable, but it isn’t a get-out clause or a substitute for steady and intentional reductions.
At McLaren, we’ve committed to setting our Net Zero goal in line with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). We have already set targets in line with the United Nations’ Sports for Climate Action Commitment to halve our footprint by 2030 compared to our 2019 baseline, and to reduce our emissions by 90% by 2040.
For the remaining 10%, we’re currently exploring creative and innovative approaches to offsetting, including how we can draw on the natural capital at the McLaren Technology Centre as a potential carbon sink, while enriching the local biodiversity and natural spaces.
Why do we need to reduce emissions?
The earth’s temperature is rising to dangerous levels. Already 1.1 degrees Celsius hotter than pre-industrial times, it will likely pass 1.5 degrees by 2040. The warmer our planet gets, the greater the likelihood of disruption to weather patterns, supply chains, industry, ecosystems, and of course human life.
Wherever we live in the world, we are already experiencing or will experience either the direct catastrophic consequences of climate change or the knock-on effects that will impact everything from the food we eat to the sport and leisure activities we enjoy. It’s therefore vital that we work together to reduce emissions now.
A global challenge
Net Zero is a big challenge, but it’s a challenge we believe we can rise to. It starts with a unified approach, which is why we’ve signed up to both the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Race to Zero campaign and the UN’s Sports for Climate Action Commitment, a framework which includes measuring, reducing and reporting our GHG emissions, in line with the 1.5-degree commitment.
We were the first F1 team to be awarded the Carbon Trust Standard in 2010, which we’ve since retained on a bi-annual basis, most recently in February 2021, and in April 2022, we were awarded the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) three star Environmental Accreditation for the ninth year running. For us, these are foundations that ensure we align with and contribute to a global mission – but commitment is just the beginning.
Mindset to action
McLaren Racing’s Sustainability Report was a significant milestone in our Net Zero journey, providing the most transparent account to date of our emissions profile, and detailing some of the steps we’re taking to help us accelerate towards our Net Zero target.
At the heart of these steps is promoting a mindset that empowers all our people to find opportunities to reduce emissions and waste. This has already resulted in meaningful changes in factory workstreams and the elimination of single-use plastic from our trackside operations in 2021, in line with F1’s target.
This mindset shift has helped us to take sustainable approaches to innovation, an example of which can be found in our work to reduce emissions at European races. Our newly designed Race Base and Team Hub, as well as our work with Swiss cleantech specialist Bcomp on a light-weight timing stand and engineers’ island, significantly reduced our freight and haulage requirement, and associated emissions.
A responsibility to influence
While we’ve made important strides, it’s clear we have a lot to do, both as an organisation working to reduce its own GHG footprint, and as a global brand with the power to influence conversations, policies and behaviours.
With 90% of our GHG footprint outside of our direct control, we have a responsibility to advocate for change across our industry, and we’re excited to see the positive impact that emissions-efficient race schedules, engine regulations and sustainable fuel development will have on our sport.
Through electric racing, we’re hoping to decouple our growth from environmental impact, while drawing attention to sustainable causes. In 2021 we competed in our first Extreme E championship and with our forthcoming entry into Formula E, we’re confident we can continue to bring the joy of racing to our fans while exploring the many possibilities electric racing provides for both motorsport and consumers.
Net Zero is possible. Science-based targets show that it’s possible, but it’s a long-term commitment that requires accountability, education and action. To learn more, visit our Sustainability Hub.