The Low Carbon team’s growing world reputation focuses on Dubai

COP28 influencer – the East Lancs Chamber’s Low-Carbon/Sustainability team is ready to take a more strategic role at this year’s pivotal December UN global climate conference in Dubai after creating a rising international environmental reputation for its skills in the last five years.

Is never too early to make long-range plans. Especially in a month when top government and business heads rolled but Extinction Rebellion’s street-cred as a unifying voice rose during four peaceful days of The Big One protest.

A key message is that ‘green’ awareness and focused activism are evolving quickly as evidence mounts of the accelerating impacts of climate change. The East Lancs Chamber’s Low Carbon (CLC) team is systematically widening its horizons too.

A growing regional, national, and international profile

When world political, business, environmental, community and NGO leaders meet for their next round of global climate change talks (COP28) hosted by Dubai late this year, the CLC team hopes to be in the  Blue Zone where key decisions are made.

At COP26 and COP27 (Glasgow – November 2021 and Sharm el-Sheikh – November 2022) Lancashire representatives gained essential experience as participants in the British and International Chambers  and in the Glasgow Green Zone and in Sharm-el-Sheikh as official Observers to negotiations in the Blue Zone.. Now they are ready to contribute much more.

Specifically, the team wants to help the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) prepare its support for the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) which in turn will promote the powerful role of global business, industry and commerce in combating the climate emergency.

Learning how to build success on success

Why East Lancs Chamber and CLC now? The answer can be found in a series of steps that have been carefully planned, expanded, and implemented in recent years.

Regionally – working closely with local companies, CLC has created a highly-specialised UK hub to increase energy-efficiency in business, support the transition from fossil-fuels to renewable energy sources, and help take new ‘clean’ technologies to market.

Milestones along the way include taking hundreds of local companies through the CLC programme in the last five years. Looking to the near future, the development of RedCAT (www.red-cat.uk/) based at the Chamber’s Red Rose Court headquarters at Clayton Business Park in Accrington is also crucial.

RedCAT (Lancashire Centre for Alternative Technologies) helps selected projects to find funding, maximise innovation, and increase their manufacturing capacity to bridge the ‘Valley of Death’ technical and financial gap that often exists between the development and commercialisation of low-carbon products, technologies, and services – with a focus on regional, UK and world markets.

The CLC’s first five year European Union part-funded programme ends in June 2023. However, from June onwards, the newly-expanded CLC brief will cover not only SMEs, but also larger corporate organisations.

Nationally – CLC is rolling out its successful low-carbon programme commercially across the UK: an early client is Dorset Chamber of Commerce (https://dorsetchamber.co.uk/). The Sustainability Team are also in discussion with a number of other Chambers and potential national clients/projects.

In parallel, the CIPS centre of Excellence Training Centre based at Red Rose Court – with seven study centres across the country – is a UK leader in procurement and supply chain management training that specialises in Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) qualifications (https://www.chamberelancs.co.uk/services/cips-and-training/cips-training/).

Internationally – this is where the Chamber and CLC are increasingly making their mark!

Recent experience shows that most overseas contacts are surprised to find a British chamber so active in a specialist area like low-carbon and keen to share and sell its services globally.

As its worldwide reach extends, chamber trade teams from Lancashire always include representatives of local member companies that can deliver solutions to high standards.

And as reported in March, East Lancashire Chamber is also in pioneering low-carbon UK trade talks with the UN.

While meeting several UN agencies during a March trade mission to Denmark, the team discovered that the UN urgently needs technology to deliver its aid and development programmes. However, it does not know how to reach out to innovating businesses and communicate its requirements.

This is another gap that RedCAT and the CLC programme are designed to close with additional support from Innovate UK Edge (https://www.innovateukedge.ukri.org/) and the British Business Bank (https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/).

As a result, East Lancs has agreed to create a new platform to channel UN technical enquiries directly to Red Rose Court. In return, we will disseminate enquiries and make real-time links with local manufacturers and innovators wherever possible.

International successes

Taking an increasingly active role in the COP-process this year is not CLC’s only success in Dubai.

Against tough competition from the Dublin Chamber of Commerce (Ireland), the Eskisehir Chamber of Industry (Turkey), and the Voka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Belgium) at the 12th World Chambers Congress in Dubai November 2021, the CLC service offering was the final winner of the Best Climate Project.

Finalists had 4.5 minutes to present their project before six minutes of tough questioning from an international panel of peers, the winner was then selectedby the conference’s live audience. Crucially, the CLC team did not fly to Dubai in keeping with the low-carbon message, but made a streamed video presentation.

CLC was commended for integrating the separate offers made by the other candidates within a single service, plus the experience, age, gender, and ethnic diversity of its Lancashire-based experts.

As further examples of growing world links, Chamber Director of Sustainability, Stephen Sykes, was also invited to speak at the UK and China Carbon Expo in Shanghai (postponed by the Covid-19 lockdown), and share the Chamber’s experience of net-zero and supporting SMEs with an international business  audience in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Direction of travel.

Stephen explains how the CLC low-carbon sustainability has advanced rapidly in recent times, and its future direction of travel.

“East Lancs is extremely proactive and successful in our chosen fields. We are often asked how we achieve this. The answer is that it is the result of 20 years of continuous development experience which began with international trade support, moved on to the CIPS programme, and continues now with the Chamber Low Carbon programme and formation of a staffed, funded and resourced RedCAT.

“The baseline is a broadening of sustainability in line with, for example, the increasing uptake of B Corp’s high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency principles (https://www.bcorporation.net/en-us/), plus ESG as a financial community risk management tool (https://kpmg.com/uk/en/home/services/environmental-social-governance-hubpage.html).

“Two other factors are important too. The first is that our skills and expertise are now commercially available to help others. The second is that we are not territorially-based. Our ultimate aim, which will be seen at COP28, is to export what we and our member partners can do internationally.

“It is still early days. However, we are already applying our experience to help the British Chambers of Commerce, and in turn the International Chamber of Commerce, to be more ambitious, aggressive, and organised as ‘enabled’ solution providers when working overseas.”

Refocusing on net-zero

More than 200 organisations, including Fair Trade movement, joined Extinction Rebellion in April for The Big One with a central message to government of, ‘You had your chance – now we’re stepping it up’. The new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) formed in February to replace BEIS has been the Government’s main response.

DESNZ’ dual goals are to protect a much more energy independent UK from volatile world energy markets, and reach net-zero by 2050 as part of a growing clean energy economy.

These aims are described in a trio of new documents. Powering up Britain (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/powering-up-britain/powering-up-britain) introduces DESNZ’ overall approach. Key goals are to lower consumer energy bills while creating an economically-competitive future with ‘opportunities for all business sectors’, and ensuring the UK’s future energy system is ‘secure, low-cost and low-carbon’.

This main document also acts as an introduction to ‘Powering up Britain: Energy Security Plan, and ‘Powering up Britain: Net Zero Growth Planwhich together aim to make the UK more energy ‘independent, secure and resilient’.

Powering Up Britain: Energy Security Plan (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/powering-up-britain/powering-up-britain-energy-security-plan)

This sets out the Government’s plan to double Britain’s electricity generation capacity from a fully decarbonise the power sector by 2035, but with a role for oil and gas during the transition. Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) features heavily too. Other aims are to improve competitiveness, deliver an industrial renaissance, and level up the whole UK.

Powering Up Britain: Net Zero Growth Plan (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/powering-up-britain/powering-up-britain-net-zero-growth-plan)

This aims to enhance UK energy security, maximise economic opportunities, maintain leadership in the clean energy transition, and deliver the UK’s net-zero commitments. It also responds to the Skidmore review (https://app.croneri.co.uk/feature-articles/smes-can-contribute-and-benefit-net-zero#WKID-202302020849360629-90189472), and the CCC’s Annual Progress Report 2022 which says current policies cannot deliver two-thirds of the emission cuts needed by 2050.

Half of UK businesses already affected by climate change

Meanwhile, 48% of UK businesses have already been hit by physical effects of climate change new research by global risk management and insurance broker Gallagher suggests (https://www.ajg.com/uk/news-and-insights/2023/april/half-of-uk-businesses-already-impacted-by-climate-change/).

In a study of more than 1,500 UK businesses nearly three-quarters say they are concerned about impacts in the next 10 years. Two-thirds add that a global temperatures rise of 20C – the upper limit set by the 2015 Paris Agreement – will have a “significant” impact on their business.

The most common effect, say 52%, is extreme weather event disruption, including flooding, storms and heatwaves; other reported effects are higher operating costs (47%), supply chain issues (39%) and physical damage to assets (35%). Some 15% have moved premises; 16% have changed their business model.

Peaked energy emissions?

However, the positive news from New Scientist is that carbon emissions from global power generation may have peaked in 2022 and should decline in the coming years as the sector reaches a clean power transition tipping point (https://www.newscientist.com/article/2368526-emissions-from-global-electricity-generation-may-have-now-peaked/?utm_source=onesignal&utm_medium=push&utm_campaign=2023-04-12-Electricity-emi),

A new report from think tank Ember (https://ember-climate.org/) uses data from 78 countries covering 93% of global electricity demand. Ember says record renewable energy deployments in the last year pushed wind and solar power generation to a new high of 12% up from 10% in 2021.

Falling technology costs and supporting government policies will accelerate the pace of growth in 2023 and beyond, it believes.

Nature to the rescue?

However, natural solutions could still be important. A new cyanobacterium microbe in a volcanic hot spring near the Italian island of Vulcano turns carbon dioxide into biomass ‘astonishingly quickly’, according to scientists who found it recently (https://twofrontiers.org/expeditions/vulcano). The thought is that it could help to remove CO2 already in the atmosphere.

Protecting or expanding populations of nine key animal groups, including bison, elephants, whales, and sharks, could also remove huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.

Massive wild animals store carbon in their bodies while promoting tree and seagrass growth, preventing carbon-releasing wildfires, and packing down ice and soil to keep carbon in the ground, Oswald Schmitz at Yale University suggests (https://environment.yale.edu/profile/schmitz).

New woods ‘up north’

Nearer to home, a major reforestation project is about to start with the planting of first trees at Snaizeholme in the Yorkshire Dales near Hawes. The Woodland Trust wants to populate 291 hectares with saplings and create one of the largest native woodlands in England (https://woodlandtrust-newsroom.prgloo.com/news/first-trees-to-be-planted-as-one-of-englands-biggest-native-woodlands-starts-to-take-shape).

The plan, funded by the White Rose Forest through its ‘Trees for Climate’ funding programme, includes habitat restoration and nature recovery. It is also part of Defra’s ‘Nature for Climate’ fund that provides grants for woodland creation within all Community Forest areas in England.

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