Be prepared – new Carbon Reduction Plans are coming your way!

Lancashire businesses will soon face yet another contracting hurdle on the complex road to sustainability and net-zero. The good news is that our low carbon solutions will also help companies prepare for tough new rules expected from November’s COP28 Dubai climate summit.

Times are tough for commerce. However, there will soon be an additional carbon emissions and energy hoop to jump through.

From April 2024, Carbon Reduction Plans (CRP) that at present are only mandatory for public sector contracts worth more than £5 million will be extended to cover all NHS procurement.

And that will put a new onus on smaller and medium-sized companies to prove in all new tender submissions and contracts how they are cutting – or planning to cut – onsite, bought-in, and indirect supply chain carbon emissions.

But, as East Lancs Chamber CEO Miranda Barker OBE points out, help is available.

A question of survival

“Carbon reduction plans can no long be dismissed as ‘nice-to-know’ greenwash eco-badges representing shallow pledges,” she explains. “They must now be regarded as real commitments to drive down the climate impacts of business as part of the UK’s national strategy to reach net-zero.

“However, with energy costs still sky high, this could become a survival issue for many SMEs already watching their energy bills soar by 400% this month! We can help. But you must act quickly.

“If you are a Lancashire business, our Chamber Low Carbon Programme (CLC) now has government funding support to help you customise your own CRP showing onsite (Scope 1), bought-in via utility services (Scope 2), and complex supply-chain (Scope 3) carbon emissions.

“Controlling your carbon footprint involves taking control of your energy bills, changing wasteful habits, driving up efficiency, and even generating your own clean onsite renewable electricity – which are all important money-saving benefits,” she adds.

The big change

The new reality is that companies will soon be judged on their carbon management whenever they apply for not only for tenders, contracts, and insurance, but also funding. Banks are increasingly keen to review ESG targets and assess investment applications through a socially-conscious lens.

And there are no short cuts, Miranda warns. Contracting authorities will follow up on plans and check that the details have been adhered to.

The legislation

What is a CRP exactly? It is effectively a review and report of an organisation’s past and present carbon emissions, plus professional plans to reduce them.

The relevant reference is Procurement Policy Note (PPN) 06/21 which was updated in April 2023 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/procurement-policy-note-0621-taking-account-of-carbon-reduction-plans-in-the-procurement-of-major-government-contracts (and https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1054374/PPN-0621-Taking-account-of-Carbon-Reduction-Plans-Jan22__1_.pdf).

This introduces a new requirement for bidding suppliers to detail their commitments to reaching net-zero via a CRP as a condition of moving forward into bidding competitions.

Further information can be seen at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/procurement-policy-note-0621-taking-account-of-carbon-reduction-plans-in-the-procurement-of-major-government-contracts/ppn-0621-frequently-asked-questions

‘Once-in-a-generation economic opportunity’ beyond net-zero

There is also new evidence that the UK could more than double its economic bonuses from net-zero by adopting policies that break clean technology barriers and push the ordinary benefits of a net-zero-only transition up from £36.4 billion to £70.3 billion annually.

According to a report by the UK Business Council for Sustainable Development in partnership with Prologis UK and Inspired Plc (https://ukbcsd.co.uk/report2023/), this would open economic opportunities ‘unseen since the discovery of oil and gas reserves in the North Sea in the 1970s.’

It adds, “The UK’s strong competitive advantages in clean energy generation mean it is uniquely well positioned in the race to net-zero which can deliver significant and sustained economic growth, raised productivity and increased exports.”

“For the UK to cement its leadership in tackling this challenge, crucial public policy decisions need to be taken, backed up by investment from private sector organisations to ensure that the UK makes and captures the necessary investment to capitalise on its strengths,” it concludes.

Preparing for COP28

As mentioned above, the East Lancs Chamber’s Low-Carbon/Sustainability team is tracking COP28 preparations. In April, we outlined our strategy for Dubai as our global technical and commercial reputation as a low carbon specialist grows (https://www.chamberlowcarbon.co.uk/2023/the-low-carbon-teams-growing-world-reputation-focuses-on-dubai/).

One development in the media that has been noted is a subtle change of approach by COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber. He was recently reported to have said that ‘… in a pragmatic, just and well-managed energy transition … phasing out fossil fuel emissions while phasing and scaling up viable, affordable zero-carbon alternatives’ is essential’.

However, as a representative of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and chief executive of one the world’s largest oil-and-gas producers, there is some concern about his use of the word ‘emissions’.

If it is not clear if this should be interpreted as continuing to use fossil fuels but removing their CO2 content from the atmosphere later, even though the technologies involved are largely unproven at scale.

Germany foreign minister Annalisa Baerbock is adamant the COP28 goal ‘must be to ring in the end of the fossil fuel age’.

Blame game?

Al Jaber added that the ‘dismal’ failure of rich nations to meet climate finance goals is ‘holding up’ progress in negotiations, and told leaders in early May at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue (PCD) high-level political and international forum in Berlin that ‘trust is low’ in climate negotiations.

He reportedly added, ‘… developing economies say they cannot afford to cut carbon emissions without more support from the rich nations responsible for most of the greenhouse gases heating the planet’.

The Financial Times interpreted this as Al Jaber indicating that he intends to focus on ‘mobilising’ private finance and reforming international finance institutions to ‘supercharge’ climate funds.

COP28 will take place between 30th November and 12th December this year … which leaves plenty of time for further developments on critical issues to emerge.

UK will join US carbon emissions removal scheme ahead of COP28

Westwards across the Atlantic there was more accord.

Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Grant Shapps, confirmed the UK will join President Biden’s Carbon Management Challenge launched at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate Change (MEF) to decarbonise energy in April 2023 (https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/04/21/chairs-summary-of-the-major-economies-forum-on-energy-and-climate-held-by-president-joe-biden-2/).

The UK Energy Secretary met members of the Biden administration, including his counterpart US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, to discuss partnership opportunities; the Challenge wants nations to share announcements at COP28 on their plans to develop carbon removal technologies.

With this in mind, the Government says the UK has a huge carbon storage potential; North Sea and other carbon sinks could hold up to 78 billion tonnes of carbon permanently.

Businesses call on G7 to unlock ‘scalable and affordable’ energy storage solutions

Meanwhile, the Corporate Leaders Network (CLN) wants major nations to provide better access and funding for energy storage, citing the need for hydropower, liquid air storage, utility-scale batteries and thermal energy storage solutions.

Its report was published before the G7 summit in Japan which focused on pressing political and military as well as environmental issues.

CLN, convened by The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), emphasised that energy storage is a vital cog in the global transition to clean energy grids, and that cross-border cooperation will accelerate this market.

Lack of green industry planning could jeopardise the UK

Meanwhile, influential economist Andy Haldane – who is now a member Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s council of economic advisers – has said an absence of clear strategy is pushing Britain out of a new multibillion-pound global market, and wants the urgent launch of a coherent plan for manufacturing.

“The world is facing right now an arms race in re-industrialisation. And I think we’re at risk of falling behind in that arms race unless we give it the giddy up,” he said, warning that the UK is “not really in the race at any kind of scale” while other countries forge ahead with future green, hi-tech industries

Three factors underpin the scramble, he suggests: – a need to boost supply chain resilience after widespread Covid disruption; decarbonisation; and rising military tensions.

‘Frightening’ heat and drought hit Europe

Continental Europe will see further droughts in 2023 say scientists, following ‘frightening’ impacts in 2022 when heatwaves killed more than 20,000 people and droughts withered crops.

An April report from the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) https://climate.copernicus.eu/esotc/2022?utm_source=press&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=pr-ESOTC22-main) says 2023 droughts are already baked in for many farmers. Limiting the rising damages of global heating now pivots on cutting carbon emissions rapidly, authors said.

Europe suffering its hottest summer on record by a large margin in 2022, a phenomena that would have been virtually impossible without global heating. Southern Europe saw 70-100 days of heat stress when, because of winds and other factors, temperatures felt like at least 320C.

Munching microbes can digest plastics at low temperatures

However, there is some good news. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute WSL have discovered microbes both in the Alps and Arctic that can digest some plastics at just 150C – a major potential breakthrough for recycling that could help to end one of the world’s most pressing waste problems (https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2023.1178474/full).

Many microorganisms are known to work above 300C. However, this makes them prohibitively expensive as an industrial process because the heat required means they are not carbon neutral.

To make their discovery, scientists sampled 19 strains of bacteria and 15 of fungi growing on lying or intentionally buried plastic in the ground for one year in Greenland, Svalbard and Switzerland.

The microbes were allowed to grow as single-strain laboratory cultures in darkness at 150C. They were then tested for their ability to digest different types of plastic.

None were able to digest PE. But 19 strains, including 11 fungi and eight bacteria, could digest PUR at 150C; 14 fungi and three bacteria were able to digest plastic mixtures of PBAT and PLA.

Nappy-endings?

Used nappies could replace up to 8% of the normal sand content of concrete and mortar in single-storey homes without significantly diminishing ‘end-product’ strength. The aim is to reduce the cost and carbon-footprint of extracting and delivering sand (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-023-32981-y).

Disposable nappies are often made of wood pulp, cotton, viscose rayon and plastics like polyester, polyethylene and polypropylene; because they cannot usually be recycled, most go to landfill or incineration.

They would, of course, have to be shredded first, say scientists at the University of Kitakyushu in Japan, and their use would involve a change in building regulations.

But … or butt … this is an innovative example of a practical circular economy working in practice for otherwise non-recyclable waste.

Bottoms-up maybe? We can drink to that!

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