Tesco bags electric delivery fleet as business demands climate aid

Tesco has revealed plans to accelerate its net zero ambitions, including an all-electric delivery fleet, as business groups join forces to demand additional support from the government in the fight against climate change.

The UK’s largest retailer said its first electric grocery vans would begin deliveries to customers in London this month and the entire fleet would be electric by 2028 as the industry experiences a surge in demand during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The supermarket chain’s most recent results showed it had doubled capacity to 1.5 million delivery slots per week – a statistic placing strain on its green credentials as conventionally-powered vehicles fulfil surging orders.

Under its plans for the core UK business to be net carbon neutral by 2035, Tesco said it was also ramping up its use of renewable energy through a partnership that would create three solar farms.

The sites, in Essex, Anglesey and Oxfordshire, would generate up to 130GWh of energy per year – enough to power 44,828 three-bedroom homes, Tesco said.

The company expected surplus power to be made available to the grid.

It is the latest in a string of big corporate names to outline upgraded environmental ambitions, with the likes of BP and Shell targeting an accelerated transition to renewable energy.

It is a drive that is likely to gain fresh impetus following the win for Joe Biden in the US presidential election – a victory that is expected to result in the world’s largest economy recommitting to the Paris accord, abandoned by the Trump administration.

But the UK’s largest business groups have argued that while large corporates – such as Tesco – have the financial clout to change their ways, many small businesses do not.

The CBI, BCC, Federation of Small Businesses, Make UK and the Institute of Directors announced on Friday that they had joined forces to demand a “just transition” – a fair framework to help meet climate goals.

A joint letter to the government read: “Businesses have long said they can’t afford to go low-carbon, but we’re now seeing a stark shift in narrative. They are enthusiastic about the future and there’s never been a better time to empower SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) to make the shift.

“Big corporations have big budgets for green initiatives, but smaller firms need support to make sure they don’t get left behind. At a time when all political parties support the target that the UK should be carbon free by 2050, it’s now down to the government to ensure businesses aren’t disproportionately hit.

“We believe that such an approach can provide a robust policy framework enabling the UK to maintain its current domestic and global ambitions, whilst being accountable, credible, and fair.

“With the right support they can play a critical role in helping the UK reach its green targets and shore up supply through a just transition.”

The prime minister has described climate change as the most “enduring threat” to future generations if action is not taken.

Boris Johnson called for ambitious commitments from world leaders in a speech on Wednesday to mark a year to go until the landmark COP26 climate conference in Glasgow – delayed by a year because of coronavirus.

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