2024 – A challenging start with both hurdles and optimistic solutions

In a dark winter of wet and windy uncertainty, with so much going wrong for so many people, East Lancs Chamber Low Carbon and RedCAT are making detailed plans for a more positive 2024 in Lancashire, the Northwest, the UK, plus new markets and communities around the world.

The wave of storms which battered Britain and northern Europe early this year is further evidence, if any were needed, that the science behind climate change discussed at length during 2023 is almost certainly correct.

The priority now is for humans to undo urgently the crisis that humans have helped to create!

Human decisions

2024 will be an election year for a large part of the Earth’s population – including still-to-be-totally convinced voters in some major carbon-emitting countries. But letting uncertainty linger could make vital development planning even harder for governments, business leaders, and individual people.

To give certainty a boost, Chamber Sustainability – via Chamber Low Carbon and RedCAT – has far-reaching plans to share our expertise and optimism with many the people across the UK, and around the world in the Global North and Global South, that we expect to meet in the coming 10 months.

Optimistic hard work v pessimism

Unfortunately, we might need to start on a slightly negative note because the UK ‘green’ sector has important work to do close to home first, say two new research studies.

Circa 70% of the public are not convinced Government policies will meet the UK’s 2050 net-zero emissions target, according to the latest ‘State of the Nation’ annual report from the Deloitte think tank (https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/public-sector/articles/the-state-of-the-state.html). Only 23% of some 6,000 interviewed are ‘very’ or ‘fairly confident’ the legally-binding environmental commitment will be met.

Meanwhile, ‘The Language of Sustainability’ (https://trajectorypartnership.com/reports-and-presentations/lospres/) study finds that just a quarter understand climate crisis language – including ‘green’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘circular economy’, plus terms used frequently by businesses such as ‘environmentally friendly’ and ‘locally grown’.

Not knowing the basics makes it difficult to come to grips with the underlying problems and solutions, as well as increasingly important concepts like green technology – ‘green tech’.

East Lancs mission

We will be helping to close this gap – and boost optimism around the UK and in other countries – in three ways during 2024:-

1) OverseasIt is just eight months to November 2024’s international COP29 climate summit in Azerbaijan.

Building on our extremely successful ‘green tech’ lobbying, business contact-making, and introducing Lancashire green technology firms to world markets at December 2023’s COP28 in Dubai, we are working with the British Chamber of Commerce Azerbaijan to take an even larger contingent to the capital city of Baku for COP29 … and meet more of the right people!

Clearly, it would be very useful to know what Azerbaijan hopes to achieve when 198 nations come together to take both their discussions and urgent action on the environmental emergency to a higher level.

With this is mind, Chamber CEO Miranda Barker OBE – on behalf of the British Chambers of Commerce globally – recently met members of the British Chamber of Commerce Azerbaijan to help springboard the development of the Chambers’ offer to their business delegates at COP this year, and discover how Lancashire can make the biggest impact at COP29.

She explains what she found out below at the end of this post.

If you are interested in going with us to Baku in November, please contact Jamie Parker-Jervis at jp.jervis@redcatventures.co.uk

Chamber Sustainability

Meanwhile, following an initial successful five years, our original Low Carbon Programme will expand rapidly in 2024 into two mutually-supporting Chamber Sustainability streams.

2) Chamber Low Carbon – Our enlarged team of low-carbon specialists will help local companies to become more energy-efficient, abandon ‘dirty’ fossil-fuels in favour of ‘clean’ renewable energy, minimise waste in a cost-effective circular economy, and use, or develop, environmental technologies – ‘green tech’.

For details of how to take part, please talk to us via info@chamberlowcarbon.co.uk

Also use this email address for information about joining our next Green Rose Programme cohort starting in April which will help companies and public bodies put their own tailored environment management systems in place to ISO 14001 requirements.

We would also like to hear from medium and larger business needing support in decarbonising their supply chains.

3) RedCAT – Many promising technologies find crossing the financial, commercial and R&D ‘valley of death’ to new markets hard because of a lack of professional support.

To help correct this, 2024 will see the rapid development of our RedCAT innovation hub which has already raised £7 million in green tech seed corn finance and helped companies take nine new sustainable products successfully to world markets.

With elections looming, a number of senior government and shadow bench political leaders are interested in visiting RedCAT companies this year to see what we have achieved so far.

We believe they will be impressed. With government finance well-spent, the party that wins at the ballot box will hopefully open the public purse strings still wider as part of their budgeted environmental commitment.

To discuss RedCAT plans with us, again please contact Jamie Parker-Jervis via jp.jervis@redcatventures.co.uk to arrange an initial conversation.

Stormy weather

The New Year certainly opened with some strong reminders of the challenges ahead – but there is good news too for the longer-term future.

Winter 2024 is suffering from a particularly strong Pacific El Nino effect that is disrupting global weather. Britain was turned into “a sopping wet sponge” by storms Babet, Ciarán, Debi, Elin, Fergus, Gerrit, Henk, Isha, and Jocelyn, with Kathleen, Lilian, Minnie and Nicholas waiting out in the Atlantic.

The forecast is to expect more of the same in future – while helping to limit (mitigate), live with (adaptation), or bounce back from (resilience) climate change impacts by ending greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions wherever possible.

– Davos decisions

The annual World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting at Davos, Switzerland, is normally a snowy event where non-governmental organisation, public–private sector companies, 100 governments, 1,000 Forum Partners, civil leaders, youth, and social entrepreneurs, meet to talk about big ideas affecting society (https://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-2024/).

Since the first Davos summit in 1971, there has been less snow in many parts of the Alps and it has melted faster.

PwC’s annual survey of CEOs published in January alongside WEF 2024 says climate is a core driver of ‘business reinvention’. Roughly a third interviewed think climate change will alter how they create value in the next three years via supply chains changes, plus different products and/or services.

Fewer than 25% say climate affected their business models in the last five years; but 60% have launched new products, services or technologies with lower emissions or other climatic benefits.

– Risks and delays

The survey listed risks – physical, transition-related, reputational, plus legal associated with non-compliance to national emissions targets or environmental disclosure requirements.

Its conclusion is that many businesses do not yet fully understand climate-related risks, or put them into core strategy planning; 47% have improved their adaptation to physical risks. However, 29% have no plans; many may be leaving the responsibility to their insurers!

Changing customer preferences and regulations, plus competition, are seen by most CEOs as nearer-term and more severe risks than the climate crisis.

Part of the Chamber Sustainability mission through direct contact, interventions, and partnerships is to help change this perception.

Upbeat news

– Sewer power!

Meanwhile, the Department for Energy Security and Net-Zero (DESNZ) is putting nearly £80 million into four innovative green heating projects across England to support the pathway to net-zero.

One will use waste heat from Bolton’s sewers to heat circa 2,000 homes and businesses, including the University of Bolton and Town Council. Energy from sewage and hot water waste will power a heat pump, reduce conventional energy use, but still be cost-effective for residents and businesses.

– 60-year low

EU fossil carbon emissions fell by 8% in 2023 to a six-decade low. More than 50% came from record solar panel and wind turbine installations, plus more electricity from dams and nuclear power. Lower demand and good weather also played a part.

Figures from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (Crea) show that emission levels have fallen back to those seen in the 1960s – although this time the economy tripled in the same period!

– Triple renewable growth

The world created 50% more renewable capacity in 2023 than in 2022, says co-author of the IEA’s Renewables 2023 report, Heymi Bahar, who adds that the next five years is set to see the fastest growth yet.

This is important because as well as ‘transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems in a just, orderly and equitable manner …’ the final COP28 declaration included a call on nations to triple renewable energy capacity around the world by 2030.

Good reasons for going with us to COP29

At COP26 in 2021, the Chamber Low Carbon team was only authorised to visit the civil society orientated Green Zone as well as the British Chambers of Commerce events and the wider “fringe” meetings and events.

At COP 27 they managed to obtain Blue Zone passes via ICLEI the Local Governments for Sustainability Network. However, at COP28 they were an officially recognised UNFCCC NGO in their own right, again in the Blue Zone with one-to-one lobbying and senior networking opportunities where key decisions are reached.

This year’s aim is to reach out still further and create more influence when Azerbaijan – another the oil and gas state like Dubai – takes the host’s chair. Miranda explains what to expect from the 2024 summit.

Going to Baku

“COP29 in Azerbaijan will be very different from COP28 in Dubai,” she says.

“Dubai involved a simultaneous business conference melting pot of multiple events and more than half a million firms all congregated together in infrastructure designed to take it. Baku, on the other hand, is very likely to be completely taken over by COP for its 12 day stay in November this year.

“However, we are already well on the way to creating a high-profile programme with a superb response already from the British Chamber of Commerce Azerbaijan team as they kick off their launch event this month that will involve the Azerbaijani Ambassador and a stellar cast.

“Watch this space for further developments.”

Orkney opportunity

Meanwhile, on a seabed far far away one revolutionary green technology is showing how it can succeed on a large scale in a highly physical and chemically destructive environment.

The north of Scotland is successfully piloting tidal stream power from four turbines on the bottom of the cold Pentland Firth between the mainland and Orkney Islands in some of the world’s fastest tides’.

One of the 150-tonne machines was recently raised for maintenance. Its 8m long blades have a peak output of 1.5 megawatts (MW) – circa half that of average offshore wind turbines.

The MeyGen project has operated in the firth strait’s Inner Sound near the island of Stroma since 2018 where the tides are predictable but the harsh corrosive marine environment is not.

The project shows that the complex but well protected technology can work; it has already generated more than 50 GW hours of electricity, the first tidal turbine scheme in the world to do so.

Owner SAE Renewables could install 17 larger 3MW turbines to create a 50MW array.

Oil, gas, and now clean electricity from the deep!