East Lancs Chamber forging new low-carbon UK trade talks with the UN

There are two key April messages for Northwest green entrepreneurs. The first is enter June’s Chamber Low Carbon Programme (CLC) Lancashire Business Environment Awards now! The second is that your innovations could become part of a new import/export platform being set up with the UN.

March has been a complex low-carbon month with a good/bad news spring Budget, a ‘survival guide for humanity’ final climate warning from the United Nations (UN) Secretary General, the Government’s controversial new ‘Powering Up Britain’ energy strategy, and a mixed series of announcements.

New links to International Trade

Top of the list is that a Chamber’s Sustainability team has made a high-level breakthrough in Denmark and with officials at the UN’s HQ in Copenhagen. The result will be a new trade springboard the UN can use to explain its global green tech needs to UK businesses … and Lancashire firms can use to respond with solutions.

The main vehicle will be the expanding RedCAT (https://www.red-cat.uk/) green manufacturing innovation hub at the Chamber’s Clayton Business Park head offices. RedCAT’s mission in life is to help entrepreneurs cross the difficult gap of taking their much-needed innovations through the next stage of manufacturing and out to world markets.

Lancashire Business Environment Awards … enter now! (https://www.chamberelancs.co.uk/services/awards-2023/)

However, even higher on the list is an invitation to apply for our prestigious environmental awards!

Despite what the weather might suggest, it isn’t long to mid-summer’s day on Wednesday 21st June when at 11.30am the Chamber Low Carbon Programme (CLC) Lancashire Business Environment Awards will be made at the Crow Wood Hotel & Spa, Burnley

The event will promote low-carbon innovation and enterprise – and showcase both young start-up and older well-established firms with new products and services to sell.

The awards will also celebrate CLC’s first five years of helping hundreds of local companies switch to renewable energy, become more energy-efficient, minimise waste, join the circular economy, and develop new technologies.

From June onwards, the CLC newly-expanded brief will cover not only SMEs, but larger corporate organisations too.

How to enter

Entry is easy. Just tell us very briefly who you are, what you do, and how you meet the criteria for the particular category you want to enter for. The categories are: the Innovation Award;  Public Sector Award;  Sustainable Social Enterprise Award; Circular Economy Award; Community Engagement Award; Net Zero Award; Energy Efficiency Award; and Green Champion Award.

For more information, and to enter, go to https://www.chamberelancs.co.uk/services/awards-2023/. There are only two and half months left to mid-summer!

New UN communication and innovative tech bridge to the UK

The Chamber’s & Lancashire’s delegation, which included Lina Energy (https://www.lina.energy/), River Power Pod (http://www.fern-flowing-power.com/index.html) and RedCAT, visited the UN City as part of a Northwest Power House trade mission.

Specifically, they joined the UN International Procurement Seminar from 7th to 8th March organised by the Department for International Trade, Netherlands Enterprise Agency, and Enterprise Ireland.

As Chamber CEO Miranda Barker OBE explains, a key lesson learned is that the UN and many European organisations have a limited understanding of how entrepreneurial British Chambers of Commerce can be – and no knowledge of regional specialisations like Lancashire’s low-carbon focus.

Individual UN invitations

UN City is home to powerful UN agencies that include WHO (the World Health Organisation), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the World Food Programme (WFP).

The trade mission included applying for direct one-to-one meetings with individual UN agencies. This involves explaining exactly what you do as an organisation.

“We went as a mini-mission from the Northwest and were invited to talk to five different departments … more than anyone else!” says Miranda. “We explained that our role is to support the development of green technology innovations for world markets, providing much-needed solutions for environmental problems.”

UN green technology needs

“The problem and opportunity we found is that the UN needs technology to deliver its high-level programmes. But it does not know how to reach innovating businesses and put its key messages across.

“On our side of the North Sea, this is exactly what we have set up RedCAT and the CLC programme to do, with 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, we agreed with the UN to set up a new platform to channel their technical enquiries directly to us in Lancashire. For our part, we are committed promoting the challenges while making real-time links to our local manufacturers and innovators wherever possible.

“Not only that, we will also help our prospective suppliers to prepare and ‘pre-qualify’ for successful UN procurement”, she adds. Watch this space!

IPCC report – a final, final … final … warning!

Without massive emissions cuts, keeping world temperature rises down to 1.5°C will soon be beyond reach, says the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) latest report.

The 1.5°C barrier could in fact be passed in the first half of the next decade, it adds, with human activities taking much of the blame. According to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the rate of temperature rises in the last half-century is the highest in 2000 years.

He made “a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe”. “Humanity is on thin ice – and that ice is melting fast”, he said.

But added, “We have never been better equipped to solve the climate challenge – but we must move into warp speed climate action now.” Technical solutions will be important.

Five years of detailed research

The report, which is the culmination of five years of IPCC research, pinpoints damage that will increase in the future with more frequent extreme weather events.

Urgent changes in the food sector, electricity, transport, industry, buildings and land use are highlighted, as well as low-carbon lifestyles which could improve health and wellbeing.

Optimistically, the report says it is still possible to stay below the 1.5°C threshold with “climate resilient development” which integrates adaption to climate change with reduced emissions.

Spring Budget – £20 billion for carbon capture, energy relief support, and nuclear energy

In his Spring Budget, the Chancellor announced new funding for carbon capture technologies, reclassified nuclear energy as “sustainable”, and extended energy-efficiency relief for households, plus tax breaks for businesses. His aim is to halve inflation, grow the economy, and reduce debt.

Green groups want wider low-carbon technology support. The CBI says the UK could lose more than £4 billion of economic benefit by 2030 if it fails to deliver on such technologies. A coalition with Greenpeace UK, National Energy Action and Age UK wants to see an initial £5 billion spent on home insulation, plus £3 billion on heat pumps for fuel-poor homes.

More help needed for small firms

Miranda welcomed emerging support to help people get back into work, but highlighted the continuing problem of skills shortages. The Government’s pledge of inward investment tax relief to ‘balance’ the increase in corporation tax,  does little however to help small businesses to invest ‘…profit back into next year’s operations, in the face of rising wages and energy bills,” she says.

On the idea of investment zones around the UK, she adds, “… it is a pity not to see any of these planned for non-Combined Authority areas like Lancashire, where there are huge investment and development opportunities in new tech fields – Government is limiting the UK’s economic potential just to make a political point.”

However, as the Danish UN mission shows, Lancashire tends to make its own weather!

‘Powering up Britain’

The late March news was the Government’s announcement of its Powering Up Britain proposals focused mainly on increasing UK clean energy – wind, solar and nuclear – as a strategy to drive down emissions but also reduce energy costs after the High Court ruled that it had not done enough to meet its highly-publicised net-zero goals.

Miranda was ‘really pleased to see the onshore wind references’, and the drive to build local schemes for local economic benefit. However, more generally, the Government has been accused of erring towards energy security rather than ambitious emissions cutting.

There are dozens of measures in the 2,000 pages-plus plan which range from improving energy- efficiency in domestic properties to large infrastructure projects. They include: –

A rebranding of the ECO+ scheme as the Great British Insulation Scheme; help to insulate 300,000 of the poorest energy performing homes; confirmation of £240 million funding for green hydrogen projects; the confirmed launch of Great British Nuclear to support nuclear industry growth; more flexibility in onshore wind planning, and faster offshore wind and solar planning.

Critics say there seems to be no significant increase in home insulation funding as one of the most effective ways of reducing heat losses which increase bills and emissions. Last year, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) noted a ‘shocking gap’ in policy for better insulated homes – let alone any reference to support for better insulated non-domestic premises – and the Government was expected to respond to this.

Recaptured excess heat could power most of Europe

Which is a shame because heat wasted across Europe could power almost the whole region but is largely ignored as an energy crisis solution, according to the not-for-profit built environment Climate Group (https://www.theclimategroup.org/). Global engineering company Danfoss estimates 2,860 TWh of excess heat annually is almost equal to total EU heat and hot water energy demand (https://www.whyenergyefficiency.com/solutions/allsolutions/the-worlds-largest-untapped-energy-source-excess-heat?utm_source=pressrelease&utm_medium=generic&utm_campaign=cf_whitepaperexcessheat).

Meanwhile, a survey of MPs ahead of debates on Future Home Standards which come into effect in 2025 found that 69% would support making it mandatory for new-build UK homes to be fitted with solar panels and electric vehicle charging points.

The Government has also announced how £1,8 billion will be invested to improve the energy-efficiency of more than 115,000 homes and public sector buildings – schools, hospitals, universities and museums – through the Home Upgrade Grant (HUG) and Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund.

Retrofitting old UK buildings could generate £35 billion a year and help meet net-zero targets according to a report commissioned by the National Trust. Improving the energy-efficiency of historical properties built before 1919 could reduce carbon emissions from buildings by 5% annually while making them warmer and cheaper to run.

Almost a quarter of the UK’s 6.2 million homes were built before 1919, plus almost a third of 600,000 commercial properties.

Meanwhile, the Green Alliance warns that the UK construction sector will not reach net-zero without a circular economy focus that could reduce its emissions by two-thirds in 12 years by cutting raw material use.

Much more methane

From the Arctic to the tropics – and in northern England – methane from wetlands which cover some 6% of the planet’s surface, and are a natural carbon sink, are rising faster this century than expected.

The result has been a wetland methane feedback ‘exceptional surge’ as temperatures soar and rainfall patterns are disrupted.

Huge carbon footprint in UK household product chemicals

There is also a warning of huge carbon emissions from everyday chemicals in the home. Washing-up liquid and laundry tablets produce as much annually as 40,000 and 600,000 cars respectively.

The Green Alliance wants ministers to lead a green chemical manufacturing revolution to cut the carbon footprint of consumer products.

Painless carbon-cutting!

Scotland is the world’s first country to stop hospitals using the anaesthetic desflurane. NHS data suggests the gas which keeps people unconscious during surgery has a global warming potential 2,500 times greater than CO2.

Banning it from its 2011 peak would save emissions equal to 1,700 homes annually.