Author Archive Clare Scurr

The Coronavirus pandemic – what are the consequences for air quality?

Media attention has been drawn to the notable drop in air pollutant levels across areas of the globe where populations have been ‘locked down’ to control the spread of the Coronavirus. It has been reported that measurements of particulate matter and NO2 levels in recent weeks have dropped by up to 50% in London, Cardiff, and Bristol, compared to pre-outbreak levels measured earlier this year.

European Environment Agency data has shown that this year, recordings of NO2 levels in Bergamo, Madrid and Lisbon during the week beginning 16th March, have been almost half of the levels recorded in the same week in 2019. Similarly, satellite imagery from NASA and the European Space Agency shows significant drops in NO2 levels over industrial areas of China.

Is there a positive amongst all the negative?

Air pollution is a chronic and serious issue in Europe and other industrial areas of the globe. In 2016, particulate matter was estimated to cause around 400,000 premature deaths in Europe alone. With air pollution being such a serious public health issue, should we see any positive in the recent drops in air pollutant levels?

Although this is tempting, this short-term decrease in air pollution should be put into context. Once economies begin to recover from the pandemic, the threats from air pollution will persist unless we implement long-term and sustainable measures to reduce air pollution. It has even been speculated that emissions of pollutants may spike in the period of recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic, following a similar pattern to the spike in emissions that followed the 2008 recession. Consequently, the short-term reductions in air pollutant levels that have come about as a result of our response to the Coronavirus, offer very little consolation for the devastating impacts of the virus.

The disruption to health, well-being, and the economy that has accompanied the fall in air pollution levels highlights the need to decouple economic health from environmental damage, and to build more sustainable economies. We must work to achieve sustained, lower air pollutant levels without the severe compromise on well-being and economic activity which have accompanied our measures to limit the impacts of the Coronavirus.

What changes can we make from here?

On a more optimistic note, the major disruption to our lives which we are experiencing could present an opportunity to implement positive change as we return to normality.

For example, having shown our capacity to adapt to working from home, it’s possible that businesses and organisations could expand provision for employees to work from home in the long term, or increase the flexibility for employees to alternate between working at home and in the office. The potential to reduce commuter traffic would be welcome in congested cities.

Our adaption to and recovery from the economic impacts of the pandemic are critical in determining how it will impact air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The disruption that the virus has caused has the potential to distract away from efforts to reduce emissions, and the shocks to economies could reduce investment in renewable technologies. To avoid this, governments must consider and incentivise environmental protection in how they support economic recovery.

An additional incentive for improving air quality is that it could build populations’ resilience to respiratory diseases in the future. Air pollutants such as NO2 and particulate matter are strongly linked to lung and heart conditions. In addition to the direct impacts on health caused by such conditions, they may leave sufferers vulnerable to respiratory diseases such as the Coronavirus.

The rapid drops in air pollutant levels that have been recently observed in industrial areas of the globe, give an indication of the progress we could potentially make in improving air quality through measures such as expanding renewable energy production, investing in low emissions vehicles, improving cycling infrastructure, and reducing congestion on the roads. However, the long-term fate of air quality in the post-pandemic world remains to be seen.

Article author: Lizzie Hebbert

BIBAs 2020 Update

The Be Inspired Business Awards (BIBAs) 2020 ceremony has now been re-arranged to take place on Friday 11th December to ensure we are able to celebrate the best of our county’s business community as safely as possible. This means that the application deadline has been moved to the 31st July (all entries submitted to date are still valid).

During September the first round of judging will take place and for this year only there will not be a second round of judging – where judges visit finalists at their business premises. Instead, the judging panels will conduct interviews in September with each applicant given an hour, rather than a 30 minute initial interview.

Please be assured the judging process will focus on achievements to date, and in recent years, not on the current situation which is affecting all businesses.

Whilst working from home it is a perfect opportunity for companies to apply and give us all something to celebrate once this period is over! There are 20 different categories to apply for. The category for “Green Business of the Year” is open to any business that has implemented a strategic approach to reduce their carbon footprint, or firms that have developed products or services which will have a significant impact on reducing carbon emissions. The application process allows a business to easily apply for more than one category, which companies are encouraged to do.

It’s free to enter the BIBAs, to apply visit https://www.thebibas.co.uk/

The BIBAs, is Lancashire’s largest and longest running business awards programme and is about much more than recognising and rewarding great businesses and people. It is to drive growth, cultivate excellence and fuel innovation throughout the Lancashire economy, while nurturing the next generation of business leaders.  Here are ten compelling reasons to apply:

Receive independent recognition of your achievements.

A business award win, being a finalist, or making the interview stages is valuable to your business. The process of entering a quality business awards competition can act as a 3rd party endorsement for your business. It is a tangible way to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

Generate ongoing local, regional and national PR.

Raise business trust, reliability and credibility.

Acquire new customers, entering the awards will help to raise your profile across many different media channels, helping propel your brand and reach more potential customers across Lancashire and beyond.

An optimum reason to communicate with your customers – what better reason to get in touch with your customers and tell them your fantastic news? Remind them why it’s good to work with you, how you’re amongst the best in your sector and how you plan to grow and move forward with your award accolade under your belt.

Acquire new talent, business awards boost your hiring stature amongst new recruits. If you are the best, the best will want to work with you.

Boost staff morale and retain key talent, an award win helps focus staff on what’s great about your company and makes them proud to be a part of it.

Grow your personal brand, there are plenty of opportunities to meet like-minded people providing plenty of peer-to-peer relationship building through the BIBAs.

Continual Development – the BIBAs will continue to have a positive impact on your business, winners are admitted in to the BIBAs Academy which will provide complimentary access to leading business experts and business support tools.

On yer low-carbon bike – bus, plane or fast train

Leaping ahead in February

The year’s shortest month has seen turbulent weather, a slew of political decisions and announcements focussed around transport … and some unexpected global research findings.

February, with 29 days this year, also saw Chamber Low Carbon (CLC) events to help firms cut energy use, emissions, costs and improve transport fleet efficiency – there will be more in March!

Incremental gains are extremely important. But the big news has been a Government green light for the entire HS2 (High Speed 2) project designed to cut inter-regional travel times and increase freight capacity.

Chamber CEO, Miranda Barker, welcomes the decision – plus a review of the “Y-shaped” HS2-North from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds. This will align delivery of HS2 with Northern Powerhouse Rail and other vital regional rail links. She is also delighted that Pendle MP, Andrew Stevenson, is now HS2 minister.

A long-term national and regional investment

But for the UK to reap HS2’s full benefits, all parts of the huge project must be accelerated together and not sequentially, she stresses.

In March, Miranda, who is also chair of the Northwest Manufacturers’ Forum and a Director of LEP (Lancashire Enterprise Partnership), will explain how HS2 will deliver economic and environmental benefits for the next 200 years and is essential for importing, exporting and moving freight around the UK and out to our global markets.

The Government’s goal of “levelling up the regions” could include the reopening of the former Colne-Skipton rail link as part of plans to restore where feasible key local lines and stations lost in the 1963 Beeching cuts (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/re-opening-beeching-era-lines-and-stations).

Join us at Lunch & Learn

In a moment, we will look at early 2020 CLC Lunch & Learn events where the CLC team can help you directly – plus a number of interesting positive, negative and confusing new research results.

Before that, a series of national developments have underlined the key role of low-carbon sustainable transport, given that leaders of more than 190 nations are due to travel to Glasgow this autumn.

The world belongs to Glasgow

With only eight months to go to November’s pivotal COP26 climate gathering in Glasgow (https://sdg.iisd.org/events/2020-un-climate-change-conference-unfccc-cop-26/), former International Development Secretary and now Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma, has taken over summit organisation from former Energy Minister, Claire O’Neill.

COP26 will be important as a UK showcase for its new environmental trading credentials. Glasgow is also seen as a last chance for a collaborative climate change solution between nations.

At this point before the highly-successful 2015 Paris COP21 summit, which agreed goals to keep temperature rises below 20C and preferably 1.50C, France was talking to world leaders through its embassy network, a diplomatic task often liken to herding cats. There is a great deal to do.

In the pipeline

The Environment Bill (https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2019-20/environment.html) is still making its way through the detailed reading, committee and reporting stages of both the Commons and Lords ahead of final Royal Assent. Ministers see the bill as a blue-print for Britain’s ambitious environmental future in the role of an independent trading nation.

Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that global carbon emissions from power production have flattening out in the last year to 33 gigatonnes even though the world economy expanded. EU emissions fell by 160 million tonnes, or 5%, because of greater natural gas use and wind power; US emission fell by 140 million tonnes, or 2.9%.

CO2 from the UK’s power sector also fell by some two thirds over the past decade according to a new Imperial College London study commissioned by Drax (https://www.drax.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/200207_Drax_19Q4_Report_3.pdf).

Against this background, developments on the carbon front are coming in thick and fast.

No new internal combustion engines

The Government is advancing the petrol/diesel/hybrid/plug-in-hybrid new vehicle sales ban from 2040 to 2035 and probably 2032, according to Transport Secretary Grant Schapps; car trade body SMMT is “concerned” whether the technology, infrastructure and timeframe involved are feasible.

Some £5 billion is pledged over five years to improve bus-use and cycling. This should lead to more frequent services, affordable fares and £50 million set aside for all-electric bus towns, plus “hundreds of miles” of new cycle paths and safer cycling towns with “low-traffic neighbourhood” in schemes dubbed as “mini-Holland”.

High-flying ambitions

Britain’s aviation sector has also promised to become net-zero by 2050 with cleaner engines, electric aircraft, new fuels, smarter flight planning and extensive tree-planting. Sustainable Aviation coalition members – major airlines, airports and aerospace manufacturers – will replace an existing map that only aims to halve emissions in three decades with a new “decarbonisation road map”.

Greenpeace says this is a business-as-usual excuse, with 70% more flights planned in the next 30 years. However, Heathrow committed itself in February to becoming zero-carbon by the mid-2030s.

International shipping is also working towards a 2030 target, with news that low-carbon ammonia, and even modern forms of wind power, could replace diesel on the high seas.

Oil, gas and coal

Incoming BP boss Bernard Looney says he wants to “reinvent” his company to cut oil’s net carbon emissions sharply by 2050, or sooner, and invest more in alternative energy.

The Government is also considering a UK end to all coal-fired power generation by 2024 – although globally there is concern that cutting coal use is not happening fast enough. The UK, US and Japan apart, emissions from coal in the rest of the world increased by nearly 400 million tonnes in 2019.

Lunch & Learn – come and join us

Waste Crime – Duty of Care – 6 March, 12.00 until 14.00

At our next event, Environment Agency guest speakers will discuss waste crime that costs UK society nearly £1 billion every year, pollutes the environment and creates misery for local communities.

Specifically, they will be looking at: – what constitutes waste crime; how to spot and report waste crime; how to protect yourself from becoming waste crime victim; and how businesses should comply with their Waste Duty of Care to ensure waste is managed properly and legally.

To join us at Red Rose Court in Accrington, meet the team and discuss funding, please register at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/lunch-learn-waste-crime-duty-of-care-tickets-72223645869

Sustainable Procurement20 March, 12.00 until 14.00

Most organisations deliver 40-80% of what they do through supply chains; driving sustainability through the chain has never been more important. Shaun McCarthy OBE and Carole Ann Smith will give us insights into sustainable procurement and showcase free resources available to help.

Shaun is a global thought-leader on sustainable procurement and a Director of Action Sustainability, Chair of the Supply Chain Sustainability School and a non-exec Director of IEMA.

Carole Ann Smith is Lancashire born and bred with a wealth of local knowledge from her regional background in adult education. More recently she has been Project Manager building a global community of practice around sustainable procurement and the ISO 20400 standard.

Again, to join us please register at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/lunch-learn-sustainable-procurement-tickets-72224008955

– Transport and Fuel Efficiency

Returning to a transport theme, most people probably see themselves as good drivers. But this is an area where important commercial gains and savings can be made from new technology and improving – and maintaining – better driving habits.

Guest speaker, Nick Hayward, as an expert in Highways Driver Training told us in February that Eco-Driving, or Fuel Efficient Driving can cut fuel, maintenance, repair costs, and carbon emissions. The Energy Saving Trust subsidises Eco driving for fleets of cars and vans. Jan Evans of Jets GPS also demonstrated quick & simple wins from technology to reduce a fleet’s environmental impact and reduce running costs.

Other early 2020 CLC events included: –

– How to calculate your Carbon Footprint and take action to reduce it, and

– Energy Bill Reduction!

If you feel that information from any past or future low-carbon event or CLC team support would be useful, please contact Debbie Treadwell via d.treadwell@chamberelancs.co.uk or tel 01254 356487.

What is the worst case climate change scenario?

Research findings can be misinterpreted. An error was corrected recently which suggested that warming of up to 6C by 2100 is likely, with severe impacts. Referred to as the “business as usual” scenario, it assumed a 500% world increase in the use of coal with no policies to limit carbon.

Rather than being seen an event with only had a 3% chance of becoming reality, it has been used in more than 2,000 professional research papers. A more realistic figure is a 30C rise.

However, researchers warn that lower temperatures aren’t assured. New models used for the IPCC’s (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) next set of major projections are said to show that temperatures are more sensitive to CO2 than previously thought.

Not out of the woods yet

A major problem could be hard-to-stop self-perpetuating feedback systems which continue to release greenhouse gases, such as warming soil, leaf mould and oceans. A 30C rise could still lead to more wildfires on a scale seen in Australia, no Arctic summer sea ice, coral reefs wiped out, damaged crop yields and a risk of the Amazon rainforest becoming a savannah-type ecosystem.

The BBC recently found evidence that some parts of the Amazon are now net carbon sources rather than carbon sinks (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-51464694). Another concern is the accelerated thawing of permafrost (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-019-0526-0?utm_campaign=Carbon%20Brief%20Daily%20Briefing&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Revue%20newsletter) with mass methane release, plus Antarctic ice melting.

Why clouds shouldn’t get in the way

New research published by Yale (https://e360.yale.edu/features/why-clouds-are-the-key-to-new-troubling-projections-on-warming?utm_campaign=Carbon%20Brief%20Daily%20Briefing&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Revue%20newsletter) goes further to suggest that doubling atmospheric CO2 above pre-industrial levels could cause warming that in turn leads to a loss of clouds and more solar energy on the planet’s surface – reducing the amount reflected back into space and “pushing global heating into overdrive”.

More optimistic February news comes from the London-based think-tank, Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), which says that 49% of world GDP with a value of more than $39 trillion is now accounted for by regions and 121 nations that have actual or promised net-zero targets in place. Nine months ago the total was just 16%.

The remaining 51% will be a challenge for Glasgow.

EU green deal, SDGs and other New Year news

Converging or diverging green goals?

While it is hard to tell whether severed and separate post-Brexit UK and EU policies will mean an environmental gap or close business cooperation across the English Channel, many British SMEs already have impressive global sustainability credentials!

Mind the policy gap!

Environmental manoeuvres are underway on both sides of the Strait of Dover.

On the British side a literally ‘ground-breaking’ focus on soil protection at the core of the upcoming Agricultural Bill (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/agriculture-bill-to-boost-environment-and-food-production) has been trailed as the first sign of the new UK Government’s independent approach to tough carbon management.

Soil, it is estimated, holds three times more carbon than the atmosphere, but an important feed-back loop means that some could be released gradually in a warming world.

Money talks

The new incentive is financial. As an alternative to the EU Common Agricultural Policy based on land ownership, by rewarding farmers via a revised grant system for protecting soil vulnerable to intensive farming and deforestation, ministers are hoping to tackle carbon at a grassroots level.

Similarly, there will be rewards for services to society – clean air and water, flood protection and thriving wildlife – with changes phased in over seven years. However, the farming community is still said to be anxiety about future imported food standards.

In the coming weeks, a drip-feed of new UK environmental announcements is expected to include more details about the delayed Environment Bill (https://deframedia.blog.gov.uk/2019/10/29/environment-bill-moves-forward/) initially introduced to Parliament in January 2018.

The Continent goes its own way

However, in a figurative re-run of the legendary British newspaper headline “Fog in Channel – Continent Cut Off”, a smaller “Europe” is also trying to breathe life into a new ambitious and comprehensive but controversial community-wide green vision.

Described by incoming EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as “Europe’s man on the moon moment” to “reconcile the economy with our planet”, the new European Green Deal (https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en) is designed, she says, to integrate continuous economic growth with genuine solutions for the climate crisis and emergency.

If successful, the deal will be the largest policy overhaul since the modern EU was founded, stretching from air and food to travel and construction and setting a new template for how Europe lives healthily, works productively and consumes sustainably.

Other key aspects will include specific manufacturing standards, generating a circular economy, plus banning unnecessary plastic and other wastes.

Size isn’t everything

The EU’s size will almost certainly give it global clout. However, one down side already evident is that with so many participants, achieving consensus is difficult. Eastern states object to losing coal, leading to concerns about new north-south and east-west divides.

A key element of the policy is the Just Transition Mechanism formulated to ensure that no part of the reshaped community is left behind – perhaps echoing Downing Street’s new emphasis on special steps for the North of England.

Agreeing to differ?

What this will all mean for future trade time will tell. The Prime Minister has made clear that the UK will “diverge from EU rules and standards” with a raft of changes altering 40 years of EU environmental regulations

EU negotiating language urging the UK to stay in “lock-step” with European environmental policies as they develop and state aid, with an “ambition to improve over time” in “dynamic alignment” is unlikely to be received well at No 10.

What’s in it for companies?

Meanwhile, Microsoft has decided that “carbon neutrality” is not good enough for the business sector. By 2050 it wants to go further than meeting the world’s ’net-zero’ carbon emissions goal; as soon as 2030 the tech giant hopes to become “carbon negative” and recover from the environment all the carbon that it has ever emitted.

But modest SMEs should not be intimidated. Many UK companies already have strong sustainability credentials that until recently have been largely eclipsed by Brexit.

UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

An independent UK might have national goals. But whole communities, individual cities and local companies perhaps surprisingly have a significant global green value.

In September 2019, world governments working under the UN agreed to make a huge global “Decade of Action” push for 17 comprehensive Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from September 2020. The aim is to tackle monumental challenges and change society and life in general for the better.

A full detailed list of the 17 covering poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice can be seen at https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/.

Ending hunger globally and locally

SDGs probably sound remote and daunting. Which is a pity because many ordinary UK firms make substantial SDG contributions. SDG2 is an example – to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030, while minimising waste.

Hunger is not confined to the developing world. Closer to home in Northwest England limited access to food means that an increasing number of people and families now rely on food banks. However, the converse is also true. With “farm to fork” policies to reduce large volumes of avoidable food waste, major supermarket chains are knowingly or not helping to meet SDG2.

In fact, drilling down into the SDGs it becomes clear that by becoming increasingly resource-efficient with lower energy use and smaller carbon-footprints, ordinary firms contribute hugely to SGDs.

And they deserve credit for it! As environmental and sustainable awareness grows, staff morale can be boosted significantly by knowing that they are involved directly in creating a better world.

This is an area where the Chamber Low Carbon Team is very pleased to help. Expect to see much more on SDGs through 2020. Meanwhile, please contact us directly via tel 01254 356 487, or info@chamberelancs.co.uk for support and more information.

More on the EU Green Deal

Climate change and environmental degradation are now seen as an existential threat to Europe and the wider world. Which is why the EU Green Deal will aim to connect public and private sector funding, with the Commission presenting a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan in early 2020, plus a Green Financing Strategy to facilitate private sector funding.

Going further, the European Investment Bank hopes to add a reinforcing EUR 100 billion injection over the next seven years as a springboard for all sectors and regions to catch up and join the new pan-European vision. Total deal funding is estimated to be EUR 260 billion annually – circa 1.5% of 2018 EU GDP. At least 25% of the EU’s long-term budget could be dedicated to climate action.

However, the EU says there is already good news – emissions in 2018 were 23% lower than in 1990; GDP grew by 61% in the same period.

Follow my new leader

Von der Leyen wants to make the EU an international role model which other major global economic players like India and China will want to join. As well as transport, energy, agriculture and buildings, the deal will include steel, concrete, ICT, textiles and chemicals.

In March 2020, a “Climate Pact” will also be launched to give EU citizens a voice and role in action plans, share information, launch grassroots activities and showcase solutions. Some 77% of European citizens now say protecting the environment can boost economic growth.

Key deal elements will include: – a Biodiversity Strategy for 2030; a New Industrial Strategy, a Circular Economy Action Plan; a Farm to Fork Strategy; and proposals for a pollution-free Europe. Work is due to start immediately to upgrade Europe’s 2030 environmental targets.

Many EU regions relying heavily – like the North of England – on very carbon intensive activities, which means that reskilling programmes, employment opportunities and new commerce sectors will be a priority

Breaking the detail down further, at least 40% of the common agricultural policy budget and 30% of fisheries subsidies will be dedicated to climate change and cutting greenhouse gases, with much tougher air quality restrictions, plus more freight transport by “green” rail and water.

Crucially, a carbon border tax could be levied on imports to the EU from exporters with weaker carbon targets.

UK approach

The UK Government has already indicated that the environment will be a high priority, with 40GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030. The 19 December Queen’s Speech called for progress towards the net-zero emissions goal ahead of the November 2020 UN COP26 summit in Glasgow.

As in Europe, recent polling data published by The Independent showed that some 70% of people questioned support net-zero emissions by 2030; 7% oppose. Views expressed crossed all ages and social groups in parts of Britain with no regional, generational or urban/rural split.

In response to the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) annual progress report, the Prime Minister plans to steer a new internal committee to establish governance and enforcement mechanisms accelerating cross-government efforts to meet the net-zero 2050 target.

The new Environment Bill designed to protect and improve the environment for future generations will have legally binding targets for better air quality. It should also set out how UK green standards and environmental protection laws would look post-Brexit, plus their effects on future trade deals. The bill includes a policy framework for a new “watchdog” Office for Environmental Protection (OEP).

There will also be a new commitment to “ban the export of polluting plastic waste to countries outside of the Organisation for Economic Collaboration and Development.

Well received

The Aldersgate Group is a politically impartial, multi-stakeholder alliance. It champions a competitive sustainable economy, the business case for a decarbonised UK economy, greater resource efficiency and investments in the natural environment.

The group’s executive director, Nick Molho, has commented that “With ample cross-party consensus, two major global summits in 2020 and growing business and public calls for more action, this government has the historic opportunity to push forward the most ambitious environmental and climate policy agenda on record.”

Another strong advocate is the Environmental Services Association which supports the principle of responsible exporting and wants to work with the Government to ensure that the proposed plastic ban, and other measures to stimulate domestic demand for recyclable materials, deliver new infrastructure and ensure that good recyclable material does not go for disposal.

Meanwhile, the influential Environment Audit Committee (EAC) MP sub-committee that until now has scrutinised Government climate action will be looking for a new chair after Labour MP Mary Creagh lost her Wakefield seat to the Conservatives.

Ditching Davos

For the 49th year running, the world’s great and good, charities and academics – plus politicians, celebrities and other elite figures – have gathered in the Swiss mountain town of Davos in January for the by-very-strict-invitation-only World Economic Forum (WEF) to attempt to sort out the world’s most pressing problems.

Although the WEF’s glitter has been tarnished since the financial crisis by the role of some participants, this year’s key theme has been the environment. Perhaps not surprisingly, US President Donald Trump and Swedish environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg made strongly opposing points.

However, the only UK cabinet member present has been Chancellor Sajid Javid, not the Prime Minister who barred other ministers from attending.

Year review and upcycling concept

Happy holidays with peace, joy, goodwill … and upcycling!

If 2019 was turbulent, 2020 promises more intense debate, confrontation, tough decision-making and, hopefully, positive change. Meanwhile, most of us can potentially make small festive green differences of a type being pioneered by the multi-billion pound fashion industry.

Extra-strong resolutions

Twelve hectic months of the old year are coming to a close with many open-ended questions still in urgent need of answers as the New Year dawns. Very few people will not be affected.

Later, we look at a very hands-on approach to not only recycling but also making more from less with used Christmas materials. Before that, a brief review of unprecedented developments during the last month may be helpful.

Following December’s general election, one option mooted for the incoming Government could be a new Whitehall department specifically designed to tackle climate change in a reversal of the 2016 decision to fold the Department for Energy and Climate Change into the Department for Business.

The growing strength of popular direct action movements to get to grips with increasingly alarming examples of global warming could also add power to the elbow of the Environment Bill which passed its 2nd Commons reading unopposed with multi-party support at the end of the last Parliament.

In the UK, urgent calls for action have been underlined graphically by unprecedented flooding in South Yorkshire’s Don Valley and recent rapid aggressive land erosion on England’s east coast.

Action this day … or in 2020?

Signalling a new post-election commitment to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised “to make this country the cleanest, greenest on Earth with the most far-reaching environmental programme”.

In a move away from the metropolitan south-east, another commentator also noted that climate change “… provides unparalleled scope for reinvigorating the regions by putting them centre stage in the required energy transition”.

Disappointingly, the world did little to agree a meaningful way forward when 194 nations meet at COP25 (conference of the parties) in Madrid in a much-needed attempt to force countries to put hard emission-cutting figures on the table to keep global warming rises by 2100 below 1.50C.

The hope is for greater commitment and more convincing results when COP26 is held in Glasgow from 9-19 November in 2020. Will the UK then be in a position to show a lead?

A boost for Sustainable Development Goals

2020 will also see the start of an intense super-decade of action to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ending poverty, protecting the planet and improving the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere.

Although the 17 Goals were adopted by all UN Member States in 2015 with a 15-year implementation plan, progress has been limited. To close the gap by 2030, world leaders at the SDG Summit in September 2019 pledged to mobilise financing, improve national implementation and strengthen institutions to ensure that no one is left behind.

To set the ball rolling in the Northwest, SDGs will be the subject of an early New Year Chamber Low Carbon ‘Learn and Lunch’ event on 10 January at Red Rose Court. For details, and to sign up to join us, please go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/lunch-and-learn-sustainable-development-goals-tickets-72220632857.

Making more from Christmas jumpers!

And so to things festive. Seasonal sweaters – typically with light-up reindeer noses or alpine motifs -have been linked to a completely well-meaning publicity push by a major children’s charity. Unfortunately, they are also said to be generating waste and releasing plastics into the environment.

It has been estimated that 12 million new jumpers will have been bought at the end of 2019, adding to 65 million already lying unused from previous years in UK wardrobes. The environmental charity Hubbub has found that 95% use wholly or partially plastic-based material.

One in three adults under 35 now buys a new Christmas jumper every year. Three quarters contain plastic fibre acrylic; 44% are entirely acrylic. A recent Plymouth University study found that 730,000 microfibers are released per wash. Inadvertently, consumers are contributing to what Hubbub describes as one of the worst examples of fast fashion which is hugely damaging to the environment.

Fashionable to be unfashionable?

Fortunately, the fashion industry is now leading a major initiative to stem its much criticised sustainability record. Its tool is the concept of upcycling – creating more new value from less.

Fashion is so concerned about its negative waste reputation that more than 300 brands in the Make Friday Green Again movement actually asked buyers not to purchase items they don’t need during 2019’s Black Friday sales on 29 November.

But before looking at fundamental global fashion industry changes which could help other sectors, it is worth looking quickly at some key 2019 environmental and sustainable milestones.

A stormy twelve-months

January saw 3,000 world business leaders, policymakers and creative thought-leaders gather once again in Davos, Switzerland, where the circular economy was discussed at length. Ironically perhaps, Prime Minister Johnson will not attend the 2020 event and is reported to be barring his ministers from taking part.

In February, the word “crisis” was used widely for the environment. An IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) report also showed that waste, resources, climate, biodiversity and social inequality are inter-related. Former Chancellor Philip Hammond’s spring statement in March introduced a conservation commitment for Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG).

Meanwhile, in April the term “net-zero” began to dominate the headlines. In May, Teresa May resigned after declaring a “climate emergency”. Net-zero became legally binding for the UK in June. Mr Johnson became PM in July.

August and September saw a build up to pivotal UN summits. In the UK, Parliament re-opened on 14 October when the Environment Bill formed part of the first Queen’s Speech of 2019. Following intense pre-election campaigning in November, COP25 produced no real results in December.

Slowing down fast fashion with upcycling

Whether a dedicated follower or not, no-one can dispute that ‘the rag trade’ is a major generator of wealth, jobs and careers. The UK fashion market has been valued at circa £66 billion – 7% of the economy – and employs some 555,000 people. However, fashion creates waste – some 300,000 tonnes went to landfill in 2016, according to WRAP – and 10% of the world’s carbon footprint.

Upcycling, which can be used in many different sectors, aims to turn old or unwanted materials into something useful or creative with a higher value but a smaller footprint – recycling is sometimes described as down-cycling because reprocessing tends to decrease value at each successive stage.

Instead of breaking down items or materials into components, upcycling retains, adapts and improves them so the value of the end-product is greater than the sum of the parts while reducing air and water pollution, landfill use, emissions, waste disposal handling costs and combustion.

A major problem is fast fashion described as cheap, trendy clothing that changes by the season, or more frequently, often with vibrant colours, prints and finishes that are created with toxic chemicals. Driven by cost-efficiency, innovative supply chain management, cheap imitations and low prices, many clothing items are now “nearly disposable” goods.

Washing problems down to the sea

As an example of a negative impact, it is estimated that one washing load of non-biodegradable polyester clothing can put some 700,000 microfibers into the environment – circa 500,000 tonnes flow out to sea annually and have been tracked around the world.

A report by The Pulse of Fashion (https://www.globalfashionagenda.com/publications/#) also found that fashion in 2015 put 1,715 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, more energy than aviation and shipping combined (https://unfccc.int/news/un-helps-fashion-industry-shift-to-low-carbon).

But there are potential circular solutions too. One is to develop microbes that ‘eat’ and break down petroleum-based polyester cheaply into a basic raw material that can be recycled. Another is to make use of the up to 25 million tonnes of wasted citrus peels and seeds that can be transformed into raw materials used to spin yarns (https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2015/494182/).

Quick-growing algae-based fibres grown in seas and lakes have a small water-footprint. One very pragmatic suggestion is for a database that tracks the circa 15% of fabric-ends left after clothing manufacture so that other producers can use them.

Upcycling can be both personal and industrial

Much of fashion’s upcycling drive is based on individual designers inventively incorporating used items into their clothing which adds customer value through uniqueness. Upcycling can also reuse ‘deadstock’ or ‘gently used fabric’.

On an industrial-scale, plastic bottles are being turned into yarns and materials for everything from jackets and t-shirts to shoes and accessories. Closed-loop plastic material recycling technology allows plastics to be returned repeatedly into consumer products.

Adidas x Parley already upcycles ocean plastic into shoes; Adidas has made six million pairs with upcycled ocean plastic uppers. Another thought is that young designers as ‘waste engineers’ should be taught about zero waste pattern cutting, following waste-streams, using second-hand clothing at scale, requesting factory remnants, plus taking garments apart and reusing them for something else.

More industrial processes

However, some problems need industrial-scale solutions. Cotton used extensively in denim creates a large fraction of textile waste but is land and water intensive. Ionic liquids – salts that are liquid – are used to dissolve cotton textiles into cellulose building blocks which can then be spun into new viscose-type fibres; a new process reduces solvent costs by 77% and, by retaining colours, also cuts water and energy use that would be needed for dyeing.

In September The British Fashion Council also announced plans to launch the Institute of Positive Fashion on the basis that there is “… an urgent need for industry-wide coalition to help set industry standards in a new way, embrace innovation and develop the need for leaders to create green businesses fit for the future and enable positive change.”

Happy upcycling New Year!

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31st October – a green deadline for Lancashire

Life after Brexit – low-carbon environmental legislation, green jobs and growth? IEMA’s Martin Baxter is coming to share his views with us on progress and future Government plans. There is optimism but a great deal still to be done at a time of costly business uncertainty.

Back to a sustainable future

Also in the near future, in the first progress report on a major economic and political regional initiative, Chamber CEO, Miranda Barker will explain how the new Lancashire Industrial Strategy is being designed to pick up where Whitehall and any newly-elected Government leave off.
Together, Martin this month and Miranda next month will give us a valuable snapshot and a long-term practical roadmap leading to a sustainable, stable and commercially-successful regional and national economy.

Red-letter day

Meanwhile, despite daily dramas and changes, Thursday 31st October remains a red-letter Brexit day in many business diaries.
Most appropriately, the Institute for Environmental Management & Assessment’s (IEMA) Chief Policy Advisor has chosen to join us at Clayton-le-Moors to outline his candid inside-track expert views of upcoming UK environmental policy – just five days before Guy Fawkes Night!
To meet Martin and hear him speak at our Environmental Policy Update meeting from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm in the Mercure Blackburn Dunkenhalgh Hotel and Spa, Blackburn Rd, Blackburn, BB5 5JP, please register at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/environmental-policy-update-tickets-70282842875.

An Act caught in the middle

With the Government’s draft environment bill now potentially “marooned” in Parliament ahead of a general election, Martin’s robust assessment of UK sustainability will be an important signpost.
Over the summer, he responded to Michael Gove’s updated thinking on how the Act will turn out –Mr Gove at the time was Secretary of State with responsibility for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Martin believes there is still “a way to go” to ensure that, firstly, any new post-general election Government adopts Mr Gove’s July clarification as the core governance framework for the Bill, and, secondly, that it “survives Parliamentary skirmishes and Brexit”.
However, he also commented that, “… this feels like an important step forward,” adding that the “forthcoming Environment Act provides an opportunity to significantly improve our natural world and put sustainability at the heart of our future economic model”.
IEMA was pleased that the approach it has advocated to Government for a long-term policy framework to create investor confidence in a sustainable future had Mr Gove’s support. IEMA also welcomed the addition of a long list of topic-specific commitments to nature’s recovery, air quality, water, resources and waste.

A summary ahead of the 31st

As a primer for 31 October, Martin’s detailed seven-point summary references to Mr Gove’s July response are listed at the end of this blog.
But before that, a number of other events and developments have been helping to shape the low-carbon agenda recently.

Circular Cities Week

From 28 October to 3 November, the Circular Economy Club globally will celebrate its first “Circular Cities Week”. The crucial aim is to push for city circular economy strategies worldwide. This also potentially ties in with the Lancashire Industrial Strategy development. Coincidentally, the UN’s World Cities Day is on 31 October.

50% of UK businesses carbon-neutral by 2030

A recent YouGov survey of 502 UK businesses finds almost half now aim to be carbon-neutral by 2030. Some 93% believe climate change is real, driven fully or partly by human activity. In answer to the question: “Is your business planning to be net-carbon-neutral?” 46% say they have publically or internally published plans.
Circa 5% say this is feasible in the next year, although most foresee a two to five year timespan. A further 8% say they are already carbon-neutral, probably based on buying carbon offsets. Aldi UK and Marks & Spencer say they have achieved carbon-neutrality.

Earth’s total carbon store estimated

Now we know that the good Earth contains 1.85 billion, billion tonnes of carbon, of which more than 99% lies beneath our feet. A ten-year research project by the Deep Carbon Observatory has looked at carbon “reservoirs and fluxes” – where carbon is held and how it moves through the planet. Only a fraction affects climate change, it says; most is deep within the crust, mantle and core.
Even so, carbon’s mobility has huge importance for the climate and habitability of the surface environment, scientists add, even though only 43,500 billion tonnes – 0.2% – are above surface in oceans, on land, and in the atmosphere. One interesting fact from the work is that “ten-years of human CO2 emissions are roughly equivalent to an asteroid impact”.

Jet fuel from thin air

On another very practical note, a Dutch company linked to Delft University of Technology is planning the world’s first commercial production of jet fuel made partly from carbon dioxide.
Based on Rotterdam Airport, it will capture CO2. Separately, water will be split into hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis using solar panels. Mixing hydrogen and CO2 forms a syngas that it is said can be turned into jet fuel. A pilot plant at the airport will produce 1,000 litres daily, though as yet it is not commercially competitive.
However, there is still concern that the logistics on an aviation-industry-wide scale don’t add up. “I’m very sympathetic to all the reasons why we need to fly around the world but climate change isn’t [sympathetic], and it’s accelerating at a rate that’s terrifying,” explains Friends of the Earth’s Ms de Lege. “The only solution we have is simply to be flying less,” she adds.

Energy & Environmental Forum – 31 October

Martin Baxter has a considerable reputation as a UK and global supporter of the low carbon transition, greater resource efficient and a sustainable economy. He is also a media sustainability spokesperson who networks regularly with senior politicians, Government officials, plus business and academic leaders.
Martin is intimately involved with developing and negotiating global and European standards, plus their implementation, chairs the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) sub-committee on environmental management systems, and as head of the UK delegation represents the UK on the European Commission Eco-Management and Audit Scheme regulatory committee.

Regulatory successor to the EU

The current Defra Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, has underlined the importance of passing the Environment Bill, pledged to continue much of Mr Gove’s work, but also said in September that the Government cannot rule out diverging from EU environmental laws transposed into UK law.
She added,” I hope to be able to put my own individual stamp on some of these important projects as well”.
However, when he set out his thinking on Tuesday 16th July, Mr Gove spoke about key aspects of the Act’s governance framework that relate directly to assurances IEMA has been advocating as part of the Broadway Initiative. Broadway brings together a cross section of stakeholders and recognised experts to generate ideas and world-leading post-Brexit arrangements.
Many people sense a post-Brexit opportunity; the Government says it wants the UK’s new environmental regime to be as good as – and better than – that developed in 40 years with the EU.
The Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill introduced to the Commons in December 2018 is meant as a framework for a new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) watchdog for England that should also put the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan on to a statutory footing.
Martin has commented in the recent past that IEMA sees opportunities to change a system that is “unnecessarily prescriptive, compliance driven, reactive (rather than strategic) and a complex approach to the environment”, plus “poor at anticipating new issues” – such as single-use plastics and low air quality.

Guide to 31 October

However, many organisations, including IEMA, have felt that existing proposals are “not world leading yet”, “EU-lite” and too weak to replace the powerful European Commission/European Court of Justice structure that currently enforces environmental governance in the UK.
As promised, the following are highlights from Michael Gove’s July statement which Martin felt at the time were particularly significant to a low-carbon environment and should still apply: –
1) “… the Bill will ensure that, for the first time, we in the UK take a coordinated, long-term, system-wide approach to the environment … set the world’s first legally-binding commitment to comprehensive environmental improvement in the areas where we as a country can make a decisive difference – air quality, water management, waste reduction and wildlife revival.”
2) “… the Bill must create a robust, legally sound, framework for a comprehensive and integrated set of environmental targets which taken together can ‘bend the curve’ on environmental decline. And to ensure that the targets are informed by the latest science and evidence, we must make arrangements for independent, authoritative advice on the level at which they should be set … ensure all our targets are robust, underpinned by the best available evidence from science, that they are developed holistically and Government is then to be held to account for meeting them.”
3) “… the Environment Bill should learn from the success of the Climate Change Act. It set a clear double duty: for the Government to achieve its climate change aspirations, and to publish a plan for doing so ….and that is what our Environment Bill must have.”
4) “… of course, any law is only as strong as its enforcement…that’s why to underpin our commitment to change, we have to create a new Office for Environmental Responsibility to hold government to account. Compelling arguments of how to ensure its teeth are properly sharpened and united in proposing a truly independent governance structure for the OEP … obvious merit that anybody which is designed to hold the Government to account is independent of ministerial interference. Offering Parliament the chance to have a say in crucial appointments of senior officers it is also underpinned by upfront, multi-year budgetary guarantees.”
5)”… in enforcing climate change law as well as wider environmental law the case is compelling…convinced that if we want a watchdog with teeth on every environmental issue it should be able to bite on climate change.”
6) “An Act that combines compelling and comprehensive objectives with strong enforcement powers and policies to drive innovation and investment will, I hope, enable us to demonstrate appropriate leadership.”
7) “… there will be a legal obligation for all Government policy making to pay due regard to a policy statement which will outline the core principles of environmental protection: a precautionary approach; the principle that the polluter should pay; the principle harm should be prevented or rectified at source; and environmental considerations should be integrated across government policy areas. This will constitute a baseline – against this greener backdrop, we can strengthen and reform our approach where we can make the biggest improvements.”

Our October Environmental Policy Update meeting should be a memorable event!

Environmental Policy Update

A lot has happened over the last year with relation to environment and sustainability policy. Find out what it all means for business with Martin Baxter the Chief Policy Advisor at the Institute for Environmental Management & Assessment.

Topics we will cover are Environment Bill, Net Zero 2050 target, Sustainable Finance standards, Brexit and trade agreements.

Join us at this free event taking place on 31st October at the Mercure Dunkenhalgh Hotel, Clayton-le-Moors, Blackburn. Lunch will be provided and there will be the opportunity to network.

Book your place here

 

About Martin

Martin Baxter leads on IEMA’s policy and external engagement activity. He works in the UK, and internationally, to support the transition to a low carbon, resource efficient, and sustainable economy. Martin is a regular media spokesperson on a range of business sustainability topic areas. He has extensive experience of networking and communicating at all levels, including with senior parliamentarians, Government officials, business leaders, and academia. Martin has national and international experience in developing and negotiating global and European standards and developing capacity for effective and widespread implementation. He is chair of the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) sub-committee on environmental management systems and head of the UK delegation. Martin represents the UK on the European Commission Eco-Management and Audit Scheme regulatory committee. Martin is a board member of IEMA and also the Society for the Environment (SocEnv), where he chairs the SocEnv Registration Authority. He is a Fellow of IEMA and the RSA, and a Chartered Environmentalist.

Change, fears, hopes and action

A new survey has found 85% of UK adults seriously worried about global warming along with warnings that we must learn to live with far less, calls for a climate change citizens’ assembly, a business-backed climate strike – but also SME opportunities.

Feeling the heat

August has not been a typical month. The UK saw the hottest bank holiday temperatures ever recorded – 33.2C at Heathrow. But with the heat sandwiched between rainstorms, the eighth month of the year was also the wettest on record too, according to the Met Office.

The Met Office also confirmed after checking measuring equipment that the UK’s highest-ever temperature of 38.7C was officially recorded at Cambridge University Botanic Garden on 25 July – the warmest month ever around the world.

Meanwhile, MPs have decided that even electric car ownership is incompatible with stringent new UK climate change targets. Similarly, the high carbon cost of manufacturing and using modern consumer “goodies” means that we must all get used to life without so many attractive “things”.

In fact, the UK should introduce a Sustainable Economy Act in parallel with 2008’s Climate Change Act to ensure that we live within the UK’s and planet’s means, one leading think-tank now believes.

But perhaps of even more practical importance in the immediate short-term is the Government’s launch of a new taskforce to help businesses decarbonise their supply chains.

Big role for small companies

Supply chain improvements are SME home turf. The Chamber Low Carbon (CLC) programme – a £4 million European part funded programme – helps small firms to build the very different and sustainable future the UK needs based on their ability to respond flexibly and innovatively to changing client demands, plus the high proportion of GDP that they generate.

Free CLC team advice and hands-on support is designed to help businesses improve energy, water, waste and environmental efficiencies, maximise renewable green energy and low-carbon technology use, minimise carbon footprints, save money and take new products and services to market. Please contact us via tel 01254 356 487, or info@chamberelancs.co.uk for more information.

However, July survey figures published in August also reveal how members of the public are now actively helping to tackle carbon … and where people are not so keen to make sacrifices!

Attitude tipping point

When Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,007 adults between 16 and 30 July, levels of concerned were the highest since questions were first asked in 2005. Over the last five years, the proportion of “very concerned” jumped from 18% to 52%; some 55% of women and 48% of men now feel ‘deep alarm’.

Nearly 75% of Britons say the UK is experiencing climate change effects – up from 61% in 2017, 55% in 2014 and 41% in 2010. More than 25% believe recent hot weather resulted mainly from human-induced climate change; 15% think natural weather processes are the root cause. Overall, 57% say both humans and nature are to blame.

When it comes to meeting new UK 2050 net-zero emissions target, 55% now believe the Government should act more quickly to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero, a belief held by 63% of adults aged 18-34, plus 70% of Labour and 69% of Liberal Democrat supporters.

The current awareness wave follows earlier 2005-6 peaks, Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, the Kyoto Protocol and the Stern Report, with climate fatigue setting in after the financial crisis. But Extinction Rebellion, school climate strikes, local authority climate emergencies and extreme weather events have raised the tempo once again.

The survey took place before Government chief environment scientist, Prof Sir Ian Boyd, warned that we must travel less, move away from red meat and buy fewer clothes. He says the public has little idea of the scale of the challenge ahead.

The difference between theory and practice

However, another summer survey of 2,010 UK adults commissioned by renewable energy company Pure Planet revealed that we still feel free to decide what we are prepared to do and not do.

While more than 90% generally agree with the Government’s net-zero emissions by 2050 decision in line with Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recommendations, only 36% are willing to pay higher tax rates to fund the low-carbon transition.

More encouragingly, some 88% say they are now making one change or more to cut their personal carbon footprint. Some 53% are turning off lights, 46% are avoiding single-use plastic straws while 31% are now composting waste food.

The least popular action is changing over from petrol or diesel to electric cars – just 3%. Only 4% are opting to be car-free by cycling or walking. Only circa 3% are going vegan, although 25% report cutting their meat intake. People are also not keen to install home solar (6%) or take flight-free staycations in the UK (another 6%). Just 29% have bought a reusable coffee cup.

More dramatically, a relatively-high proportion of 10% say they have decided not to have children because of climate-related concerns.

RIP the car

However, we may have to forget the established idea of personal transport to meet the UK’s climate targets. MPs on the Science and Technology Select Committee believe technology alone cannot solve transport emissions problems.

A committee report says, “In the long-term, widespread personal vehicle ownership does not appear to be compatible with significant decarbonisation.” Substituting electric vehicles (EVs) for petrol and diesel will not do the trick; the personal car may have to be consigned to history.

Not surprisingly perhaps, the AA disagrees. AA president Edmund King responded, “Stating that widespread personal vehicle ownership isn’t compatible with significant decarbonisation seems to be giving up on emerging science and technology.”

He added, “The fastest growth in traffic is by vans due to internet deliveries so more technological effort should be put into decarbonising that sector as a priority.”

But MPs are adamant that electric cars still create pollution through tyre and brake wear and warn that more research is needed on the environmental impact of EV batteries. Their report adds, “Hydrogen technology may prove to be cheaper and less environmentally damaging than battery-powered electric vehicles. The government should not rely on a single technology.”

Instead, the committee members want improvements in public transport, with more walking and cycling and a Government strategy to reduce the overall number of vehicles.

However, they also criticise the Government’s recent policies on transport costs, pointing out that most of the increase in average new car emissions in 2017 resulted from consumers opting for more polluting models because of poor financial incentives to buy cleaner cars.

Positive and negative

More optimistically, the UK energy consumption is now roughly equal to 50 years ago but in an economy triple the size. This is partly due to the UK changing from energy-intensive industries, such as cement and steel, to services-based sectors like finance and consulting. Renewables are also more efficient than fossil-fuels which waste energy as heat.

More pessimistically, 29 July 2019 was ‘Earth Overshoot Day’, the annual marker where the Global Footprint Network (GFN) calculates humans out-pace the planet’s sustainable natural resources. The date in 1978 was 1st November; before 1970 there was no effective overshoot, although plenty of poorly-controlled environmental degradation.

UN data suggests the picture is more complicated with wider factors taken into account, such as water, land management and fishery. Other critics describe the day as a ‘nice publicity stunt’. GFN emphasises that it highlights humans removing more than the ecology can naturally renew annually.

Time to Act

During the summer, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) also called for a ‘Sustainable Economy Act’ with legal targets to protect wildlife, soil fertility, air quality, prevent environmental breakdown and ensure the UK lives within its natural means.

The IPPR envisages binding targets similar to greenhouse gas limits set in the Climate Change Act, plus a new committee advising the government similar to the Committee on Climate Change. Existing EU environmental safeguards could end without new legislation after Brexit, it says.

The institute adds that the Government’s draft Environment Bill to safeguard the environment post-Brexit may be one route. But it currently lacks legally binding targets needed to drive improvements. New targets should cover the wider impacts on natural systems of all economic activity, including by nations exporting goods and services to the UK, says the think tank in a new paper.

The paper’s lead author, Laurie Laybourn-Langton, comments, “We urgently need to rethink economics so that we can continue to live within the UK’s and the planet’s means – protecting the many natural systems that are crucial to everyone’s ability to lead good lives in a way that is just, sustainable and prepared.” Climate change is not the only environmental threat.

Adapting is not enough

Yet more research, this time from the University of Cambridge published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, predicts that on current trajectories an average global temperature rise of more than 4C will shrink global GDP by 7% by 2100 – including a 4% hit to the UK economy.

It warns that “business-as-usual” will see US GDP cut by 10.5%, while , Japan, India and New Zealand lose 10%, Switzerland 12% and Russia 9%, with an increase in severe weather events adding further stress to national economies, including major changes in wave patterns battering low-lying shores.

Supply chain sustainability taskforce

However, the Government has taken action on supply chain sustainability through the Global Resource Initiative (GRI) taskforce unveiled in July by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Department for International Development (DfiD) and Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The taskforce’s 17 leaders come from the private and public sectors, plus NGOs, via companies such as Tesco, McDonald’s, Legal & General, M&S and Cargill, the new Green Finance Institute, plus the NGOs WWF and Forest Coalition.

The taskforce is due to release a 2020 report outlining how British businesses of all sizes and sectors can minimise their global supply chain footprints by controlling carbon emissions, water consumption, soil degradation, deforestation, plus beef, palm oil and soy production.

The plan is to empower businesses to help make the UK net-zero carbon-free, meet its 25-Year Environment Plan commitments and inspire other countries.

Citizen assembly and businesses on the picket lines

If governments around the world can’t take meaningful action because of the restraints of representative democracy – the need to be re-elected every few years – one alternative gaining ground to take the climate crisis out of the hands of politicians is that of a citizens’ assembly.

This has a Irish precedent where 99 citizen members heard from expert witnesses in orchestrated 2016 roundtable discussions spread over five weekends across five months on intractable abortion issues before making recommendations to parliament that resulted in a decisive referendum.

In another unusual move to show solidarity with protesters, the major American companies Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Lush Cosmetics and Seventh Generation will shut their stores on 20 September. The aim is to support the Global Climate Strike organised by green groups including 350.org, Greenpeace, SEIU, March On and Extinction Rebellion ahead of the UN Climate Summit in New York the following week.