From uncertainty to certainty in 2021
Follow the money, delayed legislation and critical global negotiations. As we leave a long low-carbon lockdown, a number of tricky building blocks must all fall in place to make this a successful year on the road to net-zero.
Most people love a thriller … providing it has if not exactly a happy then at least a satisfactory conclusion where the good people win and loose ends are tied up neatly.
The opening pages of 2021 have the makings of a gripping low-carbon plot. However, because this is real life, the final crucial chapter as the coming year draws to a close could have a cliff-hanger ending.
Budget, bills and bold commitments
First the money. The Chancellor delivered his annual budget for the year ahead in early March with only tweaks to the mechanics of a green recovery announced last autumn.
Instead, his current priority is to make sure the UK has a financially stable workforce and well-positioned companies to make the most of old and new jobs, skills and innovative technologies.
On legislation – or rather until time is available to pass the three-times delayed Environment Bill – England’s new post-Brexit environmental watchdog will start work on quasi-legal interim basis.
The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) will check from July rather than January that businesses and local authorities are meeting long-term UK green policy goals. A new domestic emissions trading scheme (ETS) will be launch similarly on a non-statutory footing in May.
And finally, complex international climate change politics could bring 2021 to a dramatic close depending on whether nearly 200 nations agree a plan to cut their emissions to net-zero by 2050 at the critical COP26 world summit in Scotland in November.
Happy ever after?
Anxious readers can cheat in ordinary tales by flicking forward to the last page. But many chapters of this extraordinary story will be written in the next eight months. What is certain is that the future of humanity and the natural world could be at stake.
More on the causes of this huge environmental problem in a moment, plus how Lancashire and the Northwest are helping the UK to nudge the world toward a global climate solution at COP26.
However, the real end-game is not whether world leaders reach an agreement in Glasgow but how forcefully they implement it in the next few decades, explains Chamber CEO Miranda Barker.
This long-termer goal – and moving beyond net-zero emissions – will be the focus of the British Chambers of Commerce Climate Challenge Group which Miranda co-chairs. More on this later too.
More on the budget
The Chancellor has given the Bank of England fresh responsibilities for zero emissions goals. A new National Infrastructure Bank in Leeds will invest up to £22 billion in mainly green projects; a green savings bond scheme run by National Savings & Investments (NSI) will also support carbon cutting.
But the budget lacked the environmental edge many had hoped for. As an example, the Chancellor chose not to extend the £1.5bn Green Homes Grant (GHG) launched last year to help householders insulate their homes and install low-carbon heating systems like heat pumps.
This is important for many SMEs. But with only 6% of the funding spent, the Treasury has no plans to roll forward the remainder. The application deadline is still the end of this month (March) with improvements completed by March 2022.
The UK’s OEP ‘rottweiler’ gets its first green teeth
The young Interim OEP will produce independent assessments of progress on the UK’s 25-Year Environment Plan; the green watchdog will also develop its own future enforcement policy.
In parallel, it will accept public complaints about public authority environmental compliance failures while managing OEP internal issues, such as staff recruitment.
The interim OEP will also decide how the permanent OEP will eventually be formed and operate, establishing its character, setting its working methods, and creating its “voice”.
Dame Glenys Stacey, formerly of Ofqual, and Natalie Prosser, previously with the Gambling Commission, will be interim chief executives.
As Dame Glenys, who will be chair, explains, “The sooner we are up and running, the sooner we can deliver as intended, and so begin to make those tangible and positive differences to the environment that we so wish to see.”
Some green groups worry that Environment Bill delays will leave the OEP with insufficient “teeth” at a point where the UK needs to accelerate action on both the climate and associated natural crises.
The Government wants the UK to have its own independent emissions trading scheme, although there are concerns whether this will be large enough to be influential.
Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) – the FTSE 500 firm operating the EU ETS – will oversee the new UK post-Brexit carbon market. Its 2021 allowances auction calendar has now been published.
ICE says its approach meets the UK 2050 net-zero goal, with carbon accounted for under the Climate Change Act. The first auction is on 19 May.
The aim, says Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan, is to “give businesses and operators clarity over this year’s supply of emissions allowances, enabling them to plan ahead, build back greener and better prepare for the transition to a low-carbon economy.”
The final chapter – travelling hopefully to net-zero carbon at COP26
The villain in the global drama set to reach its climax this year is carbon and other greenhouse gases. The answer to “who-dun-it?” is “we all dun-it”, and will keep on doing it without huge change.
It took 197 nations three decades to reach the Paris climate change agreement in December 2015 which was signed in 2016. This asked them to submit emission-reduction plans in line with their own economic and environmental circumstances.
These Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) must be sufficient in total to keep global temperature rises down to 20C, and preferably 1.50C, and prevent unacceptable climatic damage.
A bumpy half-decade
The Paris Agreement (known as COP21) falls within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) created at the 1992 ‘Second Earth Summit’ in Rio de Janeiro. Conference of the Parties (COP) is the UNFCCC decision-making body.
Nations have had five years from 2015 to 2020 to create and submit their NDCs. Unfortunately, the total in early 2021 is much lower than that needed to keep warming down to safe limits.
COP meetings in the last five years have not provided the motivation or momentum needed. Faced with domestic pressures, many countries have let their NDC promises slide.
One of the Paris Agreement’s weaknesses is its “bottom-up” structure which is largely voluntary and unenforceable. Admonishment is by “naming and shaming” – or “naming and encouraging”.
Time to talk turkey
Five years have now gone by – with a one year delay caused by Covid-19. The 197 nations will come together at COP26 this year to see what they have jointly achieved … and plug a massive gap.
It was already known in 2015 that Paris measures were not ambitious enough. Climate science now suggests the warming problem is greater than first thought. Carbon-cutting has to be much tougher.
COP26 (https://ukcop26.org/) from 1st to 12th will see governments, environmentalists, business leaders, NGOs – and possibly the Pope – meet to put updated flesh on five-year old strategies.
The UK is co-hosting the summit with Italy. Success in Glasgow is crucial to Britain’s environmental and commercial reputation. Which is why the regions are actively supporting COP26.
But, as Miranda explains, the net-zero target is too narrow a target to meet the world’s full climate safety needs. The aim of the British Chambers of Commerce Climate Challenge Group goes much further, a view shared by Environment Agency CEO Sir James Bevan who in March called for ‘net-zero plus’.
The primary focus of the group, she says, is to positively influence the UK’s national policy agenda and legislative framework on net-zero transition and affirmative climate action.
Specifically, it wants to see both awareness raising and appropriate fiscal support for members and the business community, plus the stimulation and facilitation of net zero/low carbon sector growth opportunities, she adds.
In April, we will show how there is also a key COP26 role for the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce’s RedCAT – the Lancashire Centre for Alternative Technologies – which with the Chamber Low Carbon Programme offers low carbon technology innovation and commercialisation globally.
We will also keep a ‘COP-Watch’ on important COP26 developments in the next eight months.
How bad is the problem?
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change set the scene in February with a warning that emissions are set to fall by less than 1% before 2030. To reach the relatively ‘safe’ 1.50C limit, a 45% decrease is needed.
Its ‘synthesis report’ looks at how effective 48 new and updated national greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions plans will be (https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/nationally-determined-contributions-ndcs/nationally-determined-contributions-ndcs/ndc-synthesis-report).
The report says emissions by 2030 will be only 3% lower than promised in 2015 – an order of magnitude below the 45% world scientists calculate is needed to keep warming below 1.50C.
Only 75 countries out of 197 – covering 29% of global emissions – managed to meet the submissions deadline. The US and China, responsible for more than 50% of emissions, have still to submit plans.
With a new President in the White House, and China’s new five-year economic plan vague on promised green plans, it is not clear how large their contributions will be during 2021.
Remotely online or eye-to-eye in the flesh?
The onus will be on the UK at COP26 to orchestrate the world’s climatic salvation from itself. The Government’s “Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution” (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/936567/10_POINT_PLAN_BOOKLET.pdf) has impressed many countries.
However, there is a worry that Covid-19, having already pushed COP26 from 2020 to 2021, could stop a face-to-face gathering in Glasgow. Online contingency plans have been made.
This could throw carefully-choreographed political decisions, efforts to press reluctant nations into making larger NDCs, and potentially the whole UN climate process into disarray at a critical moment.
In fact, there is a concern that if key discussions do take place online during 2021, the physical summit in Glasgow could be reduced to a pre-empted rubberstamping exercise.
What can the UK do?
As COP26 president, Alok Sharma announced five priorities last year which the Government hopes will bring the low-carbon agenda back on course. Specially, these are: – adaptation and resilience; nature; energy transition; clean transport and unleashing zero-carbon economy finance.
To close the emissions gap, the UK is being urged to encourage all 197 COP countries to unite in a common multilateral climate solution, rather than the unilateral NDC-approach which is off track.
Prime Minister Johnson is also being pressed to use his presidency of June’s G7 meeting in Cornwall to make reforms that will support ‘green global finance’.
A successful ending to a busy 2021 may depend on many pieces of the kaleidoscope coming together constructively in highly unusual times.
And everything agreed will then have to be implemented in full.
Many solutions are global. Others extremely local. Kate Gilmartin of the Rural Communities Energy Fund North West explained how local people can actively support the zero-carbon agenda in our Live Lunch & Learn webinar “Moving towards zero-carbon in Lancashire” on 18 March.
Bottom-up community action creates vital renewable resources and valuable local assets, she says. Some 50% emission cuts must come from people, communities and individual consumer decisions. This is in addition to big top-down changes in areas such as transport.
Not-for-profit Community Benefit Societies – uniquely allowed by the FCA – raise finance for local low-carbon projects. There is no one “big solution”, she adds. Community Energy is crucial.
If you missed Kate’ presentation, it can be seen online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkqS2VgSVB4.
Energy from oranges
The UN Environment Programme’s Food Waste Index shows that 17% – 900 million tonnes or 23 million truck loads – regularly goes into the bin.
Food waste creates some 8% to 10% of GHG emissions; the UN wants the world to change its habits. Some 60% is thrown away in our homes.
However, positive recycling news comes from Seville in Spain where 5.7 million kilograms of oranges grow on 48,000 trees, far too much for human consumption.
Methane gas generated from an initial 35 tonnes of fermenting fruit will soon be used to power one of the city’s water purification plants.
Could we look forward to similar golden harvests in a gently warmer Lancashire?
Mixed news for carbon enthusiasts
The Environment Bill has been delayed yet again – this time by Covid-19. But all is not lost. Many SMEs can differentiate themselves ready for an upturn in 2021 with B-Corp certification. Meanwhile, HS2 moves a step closer to the North West.
It is difficult to blame recent bad weather on the health crisis. However, the pandemic is responsible for a disappointing six-month delay in the UK’s urgently needed post-Brexit Environment Bill.
Fortunately, the high-speed rail project designed to cut inter-regional travel times, increase freight capacity and connect Lancashire’s green recovery to world markets is on time! In a moment, Chamber CEO Miranda Barker considers why HS2 is crucial to a green regional recovery.
Also below, see viewing details for the key February presentation by award-winning PR expert Tony Garner on ‘how to build influence, tell an effective story, and stand out from the crowd’.
With a warm June not far away – hopefully – it is also time to make a diary date for Chamber Low Carbon Virtual Expo 2021. Watch this space for updates in the weeks and months to come!
Our two-day online support and advice event themed around Energy, Environment and Innovation on 2 & 3 June 2021 (10am – 4pm) will include many breaks and networking opportunities.
Finally, you are also invited on 4 March to our Lunch & Learn webinar “What is Carbon Net-Zero and why should you care” (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/chamber-low-carbon-live-lunch-and-learn-what-is-carbon-net-zero-tickets-137288376229).
But first the Environment Bill.
Sustainable guiding star
Defra has confirmed that the legislation described by the Prime Minister as the “lodestar by which we will lead our country towards a clean green future” is delayed again, this time by the pandemic.
The bill, which business and environmental groups want enacted to help create a low-carbon economy, will go to the next Parliamentary session in May with royal assent anticipated by autumn.
The same again please … and more
After postponements caused by Brexit and a general election, the act designed as a clean break from the EU has been praised for new environmental protection powers added at the second reading stage.
Defra is now being urged to ramp up environmental measures that are essential for key policy packages such as the 25 Year Environment Plan and low-carbon-orientated Agriculture Act 2020.
However, there are other ways to maximise corporate, environmental and social benefits as 2021 opens up.
SMEs posed to benefit from B-Corp
Visitors to our first 2021 Lunch & Learn webinar on 4 February heard David Connor, founder of 2030 Hub, introduce B-Corp – the sustainable certification tool that adds “purpose to people, planet and profits”.
If you couldn’t join us, we strongly recommend that you see his presentation again at https://youtu.be/iWfQM_4JOgc.
B-Corp – short for Benefit-Corp – is a free advanced social and environmental performance and learning tool for for-profit companies.
It is gaining popularity rapidly with entrepreneurs who want to succeed commercially but also use their businesses to tackle much wider community and environmental problems/issues.
Bringing all the good bits together
Specifically, B-Corp helps companies to integrate all the positive parts of their commercial work and core beliefs. The aim is to ‘engage, connect and support other similarly-minded organisations’.
The underlying principle is that the most challenging problems of today’s modern complex and interlinked world cannot be resolved by government – plus the public and third-sectors – alone.
However, private businesses can provide vital innovative answers.
Why B-Corp in 2021?
This will be particularly important in 2021 because B-Corp Certification can build credibility and trust at a point when many small businesses are bracing themselves for unfamiliar trading conditions.
The methodology measures the full positive impact of companies the five key areas: – governance, workers, community, the environment and customers.
Its aim in bringing together human, company and personal strengths is to help SMEs, firstly, sharpen their missions, and secondly, differentiate themselves clearly in highly-competitive markets.
There are other benefits. These include better access to capital and making companies more attractive to talented staff who want to join forward-thinking organisations.
In short, certification doesn’t just evaluate products and services, it also assesses and projects the powerful factors – such as good employee relationships – that stand behind them.
And with its focus on benchmarking and performance, B-Corp also encourages collaboration and amplifies strengths that might otherwise remain hidden. What’s not to like?
And it is good to be early
The B-Corp global community of leaders now includes 3,790 companies across 150 industries in 74 countries with one unified goal.
“B-Corp is to business what Fair Trade is to coffee,” explains David. “But we are still in early adoption territory, which is a great opportunity.
“With £billions and £trillions of investment money now moving towards low-carbon, the climate agenda is rising up the priority ladder with the Biden presidency and this year’s COP26 summit.
“B-Corp can be your business radar on the environment, the next hard-to-predict crisis and a window on markets where consumers are looking for companies that focus on society and the environment,” he adds.
If it was easy everyone would do it!
Anyone can join, although companies must have a trading record of at least one year with 50% of their revenue derived from trade.
But B-Tech certification isn’t necessarily easy. Expect a demanding self-improvement journey of up to a year, David warns. A minimum score of 80 points out of 200 are needed and that can mean a lot of work.
But you will be joining brands that include Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Innocent and Danone – and Crystal Doors of Rochdale (https://crystaldoors.co.uk/) which is now on the certification trail!
Two other sources of information are ‘The B-Corp Handbook’ (https://bcorporation.net/news/b-corp-handbook) and ‘How the B-Corp Business is Remaking Capitalism’ (www.amazon.co.uk/Better-Business-Movement-Remaking-Capitalism/dp/030024715X).
Ocado opens online B-Corp aisle
As a footnote, online supermarket Ocado launched a dedicated virtual ‘aisle’ of B-Corp certified brand products in February to help customers looking increasingly for more sustainable groceries.
The aisle offers some 1,100 products from circa 35 brands. They include Ella’s Kitchen, Innocent, Method, Charlie Bigham’s, Pip & Nut, Teapigs, PROPER, Alpro, Ben & Jerry’s and Cheeky Panda.
Generating good media coverage
One further B-Corp advantage is being able to create positive press coverage.
And this leads on to our second Lunch & Learn event of the year – “Effectively Telling Your Story Minus the Greenwash” presented by winning public relations expert Tony Garner of VivaPR (www.vivapr.co.uk/).
For a PDF of his key presentation points on 18 February, please go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VskQdYpW3U
Tony says traditional media coverage and social media engagement for products or services are business fuel. Most successful low-carbon entrepreneurs know how to build influence, tell an effective story, and stand out from the crowd, he adds.
However, the media landscape is changing and companies must adjust to new ways of communicating. He discusses tools the professionals use … and avoiding pitfalls when making claims.
Avoid being obsessed with your own world and concentrate on describing complex ideas simply so “your Mother” can understand, he says. Drop the engineering jargon!
It is also important to drill down and find the right journalists or editors to build relationships with. Their time is tight. Good headlines help. Don’t use a scattergun approach. Give them plenty of notice of any events. Avoid Mondays and Fridays where possible. And get to the point quickly.
It is also important to remember that television, radio, print media and social media have different requirements. Journalists today also want proof of any low-carbon claims – don’t overegg it!
Above all, create content that delivers massive value, says Tony.
He founded VivaPR in 2002, working closely with global defence businesses, BAE Systems and Eurofighter. Tony was also Bobby Moore’s ghost writer for Italia 90 World Cup.
“Y” is a good answer to why HS2?
Royal assent – the last step that turns legislation into law – was granted in February for construction of HS2 Phase 2a to go ahead from the West Midlands to Crewe.
The Government is now being pressed to confirm the whole project – including “Y-shaped” HS2-North with a western leg from Birmingham via Crewe to Manchester and an eastern leg to Leeds.
“Royal assent for Phase 2a is excellent news because even reaching Crewe will take one million lorry movements off the road and reduce their CO2 impact by 76%,” says Miranda Barker.
“But we are looking forward to Phase 2b which will lead on from Crewe to Manchester, the West Midlands and Leeds, and also to Northern Powerhouse rail being progressed,” she adds.
“With associated investments, our regional manufacturers are eager to be part of the supply chain that builds our new national infrastructure.”
“Our region needs high capacity modern transport connections more than ever now for the good of both the UK and the rest of the world,” Miranda explains.
“It is important to remember that we make essential “big kit” in the Northwest and that Lancashire with British Aerospace to Rolls Royce is the world’s fourth largest aerospace cluster.
“In addition to aerospace, we have an automotive sector with an employment base that rivals the West Midlands led by companies such as BCW which produces 70% of Aston Martin’s chassis”. The region is a modern centre for low-carbon and advanced manufacturing.”
Bringing the world closer to Lancashire
A sustainable post-pandemic green recovery makes this even more important.
As well as helping to “level up the regions”, and being essential for importing, exporting and moving freight around the UK, HS2 will deliver economic and environmental benefits for the next 200 years.
The ultimate aim is have up to 14 400m-long trains travelling in each direction every hour carrying some 1,100 passengers at speeds reaching 250mph. Phase one from London to Birmingham is due to open between 2028 and 2031. Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds will follow in 2032-33.
Difficult calls are inevitable however. “Yes, we do understand the environmental concerns and threats to livelihoods which are extremely emotive, hugely disruptive and very upsetting,” Miranda adds.
“But we must invest in our economic future, welfare, people and country, plus clients and global markets, while meeting our local responsibilities,” she says.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps commented recently, “Whatever your view of this project, HS2 is now a reality – heading north, creating jobs and building a brighter future for our country.
Good news extra
The Circle Economy think-tank’s new ‘Circularity Gap Report 2021’ says 39% of our annual emissions can be avoided if we change our use of natural raw materials (https://www.circle-economy.com).
It underscores the link between net-zero and climate change. Some 22.8 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases come from new materials and products every year – more than double China’s emissions.
The built environment sector represents the largest opportunity for cuts; it accounts for more than one-third of world energy demand. More energy-efficient structures are needed.
Transport systems and land use also offer opportunities. Better road, flight and aviation technologies could mitigate some 5.6 billion tonnes of CO2e; 25% of emissions currently come from land.
Many nations are not factoring circular economy benefits into their green recovery plans, Circle Economy warns, and not doing enough to meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory.
The finding were timed to coincide with the original dates for the World Economic Forum in Davos which has been another victim of Covid-19.
If you would like to know more about joining the circular economy, please talk to Debbie Treadwell of the Chamber Low Carbon team (email@example.com).
Low-carbon lockdown opportunities
A third Covid-19 lockdown may be challenging. However, with help from our newly-expanded Chamber Low Carbon (CLC) Team, businesses can make green improvements for the immediate and long-term future at the start of a pivotal year.
The New Year may not be opening up as we planned. However, with expert input and guidance, there are potential opportunities for many companies to make much more out of less during 2021.
Working remotely, our team is in an even stronger position than in 2020 to help you and your business support your clients efficiently and sustainably until circumstances start to ease.
An enforced break can also be an opportunity to make post-Brexit adjustments ahead of a steep series of low-carbon rules, regulations and laws now coming down the line towards us at high speed.
The year to come
A number of regional initiatives will help to develop the business and commercial base we need for a swift green post-Covid economic recovery and to meet the increasingly urgent 2050 net-zero emissions agenda.
In parallel, our CLC team will provide free general consultation plus specialist advice during 2021 on renewable energy use, sustainable material procurement and resource management in the circular economy.
However, a slew of major Government announcements at the close of 2020 will be followed this spring by a long list of national consultations, plans and strategies to help meet the UK’s increasingly important mid-century climate change goals.
Energy White Paper
In December, the Government published its long-awaited energy white paper – the first since 2007 – with a new sense of urgency.
It links recent announcements with decisions to be taken soon that will plot out how low-carbon energy and an increasingly detailed climate change strategy will shape future work, business, community and leisure.
More on each of these themes in a moment – starting with county-level initiatives.
A number of Lancashire low-carbon initiatives will gain momentum early this year, explains East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce CEO Miranda Barker.
A new strategy paper looking to identify key actions for ‘Lancashire’s Energy & Low Carbon Sector’ is expected to be released in February 2021 by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and will focus on low-carbon solutions the environmental technologies sector can provide to help the UK reach its net-zero emissions target.
Lancashire County Council is also moving forward on its low-carbon commitments to protect the local environment and meet the climate emergency.
Miranda is meanwhile co-chairing a national Chambers’ strategy group to provide the climate and low-carbon leadership needed for a successful COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.
“It’s extremely encouraging to have Alok Sharma, with his experience as former-business secretary, now working solely on driving COP26 forward as a crucial international milestone,” she says.
The appointment of South Ribble MP Katherine Fletcher as Mr Sharma’s Parliamentary Private Secretary is an important additional local link to create a strong Lancashire understanding of opportunities the summit will bring.
Chamber Low Carbon winter programme
The CLC programme will work remotely on a one-to-one basis with regional companies in 2021 and also organise online group activities.
Green Rose – the first is the Green Rose programme (https://www.chamberelancs.co.uk/services/chamber-low-carbon/clubs-and-forums/green-rose/) which helps organisations develop their own bespoke environmental management system over six-months to ISO 14001, ISO 14005 or EMAS accreditation standards.
Our next online cohort will start in February. For details, please contact Debbie Treadwell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lunch & Learn – the second is the opening 2021 event in our popular lunchtime webinar series.
David Connor, Founder of 2030hub, will join us from 12.00 to 13.30 GMT on Thursday 4 February to explain the role of Certified B Corps which as community leaders are driving a global movement of businesses as a force for good.
There are currently 3,720 certified B Corps across 150 industries in 74 countries, with companies like Patagonia, Danone, Innocent Drinks, The Body Shop, Harrogate Water and Equinox Kombucha.
David will show that B Corp Certification is a powerful way to build credibility, trust and business value. To register and join us, please go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/chamber-low-carbon-live-lunch-and-learn-introduction-to-b-corp-tickets-136792059733
Good reasons for going in circles
Before looking at what the energy white paper means, it is important to mention briefly two other topics that will feature highly in 2021 – the circular economy and plastics.
Half of our carbon cutting targets could be reached by not extracting and dumping valuable materials. However, reducing, recovering, reusing and recycling products allows us to shrink our wider environmental footprint even more. This is an essential part of the CLC programme.
New evidence from global consultancy Kearney shows that companies using circular economy models that design out waste and pollution, such as refill, resale and repair, generate an average revenue 32% higher than traditional routes.
Kearney’s survey of 150 circular economy “leaders” found that they also cut costs by an average of 38%. Unfortunately, only some 9% of the circa 100 billion tonnes of virgin materials taken from the earth annually are currently reused or recycled.
Fortunately for us, CLC programme manager Stephen Sykes is a member of a Defra national expert working group studying how SMEs can boost the circular economy in the drive to increase recycling rates in England up to 65% by 2035.
We will share information from the group during 2021; Stephen will also feedback to Defra any problems local companies experience.
Energy white paper roadmap
Like buses, after a long wait climate change policy updates focussed on the all-important 2050 mid-century net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target are now coming in droves.
However, the autumn drip-feed of individual announcements probably made not only the big picture but also significant planning and policy gaps, and how they will be filled, difficult to see.
But December 2020’s long-awaited energy white paper – with important references to actions scheduled for early 2021 – plots out in more detail how various strategic goals are taking shape.
Sum of the parts
Post-Brexit, the UK is generating new laws and regulations founded on sustainability. The Environment Bill 2019-21 and Agriculture Act 2020 both focus on reducing carbon emissions.
But decarbonisation, green electrification and especially climate change are key interlocking threads running through recent announcements that will affect businesses and communities fundamentally at many levels.
The Prime Minister’s vision of “… your kettle, your washing machine, your cooker, your heating, your plug-in electric vehicle” powered by a huge offshore wind power increase set the ball rolling last autumn.
November’s climate change Ten Point Plan (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-outlines-his-ten-point-plan-for-a-green-industrial-revolution-for-250000-jobs) added more climate change details. Mr Johnson also committed the UK to cut emission by 2030 by at least 68% based on 1990 levels.
However, a wider but still incomplete route planner for 2021 and beyond was set out in December’s “Energy White Paper: Powering our net zero future” https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/energy-white-paper-powering-our-net-zero-future).
Interesting by omission
Importantly, the paper lists strategies, consultations and plans due to take place in the first quarter of 2021.
They include: – a heat and building strategy, a hydrogen strategy, a smart-grid systems plan, a final net-zero economic review, a transport decarbonisation plan, a consultation on heat networks and local authorities, a Green Jobs Taskforce action plan and an industrial decarbonisation plan.
There will also be consultations on ending gas grid connections to new homes from 2025, regulations to improve home energy efficiency, and a biomass strategy.
Legislation to meet the sixth legally-binding carbon budget is another priority. The UK is on course to meet its third carbon budget ending in 2022 but behind the curve for the following two five-year budgets to 2032, plus the all-important 2050 net-zero goal.
Energy white paper
The new 2020 white paper shows big changes in the concept of “energy” since the 2007 paper when Tony Blair was Prime Minister and the Climate Change Act 2008 was still a year away.
It does not recommend a specific low-carbon energy mix, although offshore and onshore wind, plus solar PV will major. Rather, it explains the Government’s new plan to “transform energy”, provide a “fair deal”, drive a “green recovery” and support some 220,000 green jobs in the next nine years.
Crucially, achieving net-zero emissions runs through the document, and, while there is much more work to be done in this area, an overarching net-zero strategy is seen as essential.
Off target … for now
The data is important. The Ten Point Plan outlines cuts of 180 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) by 2032. White paper policies might increase this to 230 MtCO2e, with further potential savings from sectors like transport.
However, further modelling suggests that the Ten Point Plan in practice could deliver savings of more than 420MtCO2e by 2032. But much tougher savings will still need to be found this year to meet 2050 goals.
UK post-Brexit emissions trading scheme
The paper also confirms the UK will have its own UK ETS emissions trading scheme, rather than a carbon tax, to replace the EU ETS for big carbon emitters.
UK ETS will open with a cap 5% lower than EU ETS. This cap will then be aligned to “an appropriate net-zero trajectory”. The aim is to give industry flexibility and policy-makers environmental certainty.
Critics are concerned that preparing UK ETS in weeks rather than years, and its limited size, could compromise any world-beating status unless it has international links … perhaps to EU ETS.
They also worry that even with a 5% reduction, the UK cap could be much higher than actual emissions, leading to a large surplus, low-prices and mistakes made when EU ETS was launched.
Nuclear options – fusion rather than con-fusion
Another key announcement is a commitment to bring “… at least one large-scale nuclear project to the point of final investment decision” by the end of the current Parliament to meet net-zero goals.
This could be Sizewell C on the Suffolk coast, although that is controversial; the UK’s only current major nuclear programme at Hinkley Point C in Somerset could face a £2.9 billion budget overrun.
Another innovative aim is perfecting a workable UK technology described as building “the sun in a box” based on the power that drives the stars to join (fusion) rather than split (fission) atoms.
Capturing elusive carbon
Support is mentioned for “at least one” operational UK power plant with effective carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology by 2030 to provide flexibility; hydrogen technology could provide further flexibility and “security of supply at low cost” by 2050 during peak energy demand times.
Infrastructure is not enough
The paper focusses on low energy bills, with automatic tariff-switching, but recognises that a future energy strategy must include demand and behaviour patterns where smart technology means that consumers with their own micro-renewable PV arrays and wind turbines will become suppliers too.
It makes clear that a more responsive energy system is needed; however, the Government calculates that a smarter more flexible system “could unlock savings of up to £12 billion per year by 2050”.
The need for low-carbon building heating systems by the mid-2030s shows how much everyday life will be affected. Heat pump installations to replace the UK’s 26 million gas boilers could rise from 30,000 annually today to 600,000 by 2028.
However, the paper says poor user experiences and a shortage of skilled tradespeople are currently barriers.
An opportunity for SMEs?
Cutting to the quick. With just nine years to the final climate change make-or-break point of 2030, the world – led by the UN and UK – is waking up to the need for drastic carbon cuts – an urgent priority for countries and governments … but also millions of SMEs.
If 2020 was unprecedented in modern times, 2021 will be both similar and different. In a period of immense change, the UK is taking its COP26 climate summit hosting role very seriously.
The backdrop is Brexit, a warning from the UN Secretary General that a ‘broken’ world is committing suicide, and a new environmentally-committed US President soon to enter the White House.
Britain, a recognised environmental leader and author of the Climate Change Act 2008 which other nations have since used as a template, is committed to making a difference before it is too late.
Climate Ambition Summit
The indications are that this may not be an easy task and will need some determined oomph!
On 12th December, world leaders – with notable absences – joined a virtual UN Climate Ambition Summit hosted by the Prime Minister to plot a low-carbon route to 2021’s COP26 climate summit delayed in 2020 by the pandemic.
Their brief was to make deep binding carbon-cutting commitments in unusual times to keep global temperature rises down to a relatively safe 1.5C. But only 45 of the 70 present made firm proposals.
Mr Johnson must now try to apply a three-line environmental whip at Glasgow’s real COP26 gathering next November when thousands of politicians, environmentalists, financiers, entrepreneurs finally come together physically.
Leading from the front
The success of COP26 – and the UK’s international leadership role – is now critically important to the Government as a new era starts on 1st January. We will all have keys parts to play.
The latest Government initiative is the long-awaited ‘Energy White paper: Powering our net-zero future’ (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/energy-white-paper-powering-our-net-zero-future) finally published on 14th December that we will look at in more detail in the New Year.
Before that, the PM set the ball rolling early in December by announcing a swingeing 68% UK greenhouse gas (GHG) emission cut by 2030 – a target and date that can’t be missed if the UK is to meet its legally-binding 2050 net-zero goal and important mid-term targets like 2030.
However, this demanding goal has already been superseded by the Climate Change Committee which in its 9th December Sixth Carbon Budget called for a 78% reduction by 2035 over 1990 levels.
The diplomatic task ahead is to combine a green build back better economic recovery with heightened climate change priorities at a time of new post-Brexit global trading relationships.
Stepping up to the task
This will be a mammoth but essential challenge.
On a macro-level it will include an ambitious 40% increase in UK offshore wind power – plus onshore wind – at least one new nuclear fission power station and fledgling technologies to harness the energy that drives the stars – nuclear fusion.
On a micro-level, households will need to live differently – phasing out gas boilers, installing more insulation, harvesting ground or air heat, travelling sustainably and eating far less meat.
It will also involve large companies and industries perfecting new workable solutions on a huge commercial scale – such as energy delivered by green hydrogen, plus carbon capture technologies.
Small … and medium … are beautiful
However, the strategy will only work if specialist SMEs fill many green supply chain opportunities with local niche solutions, competitive products, services and novel technologies for wider markets.
Which is the core raison d’être of the Chamber Low Carbon (CLC) programme that has now been extended to June 2023 with a newly expanded expert team that can be seen at https://www.chamberlowcarbon.co.uk/energy-environmental-advisors/.
We can now provide not only skilled general energy and environmental advice, but also direct specialist hands-on guidance in technologies such as heat pumps and photovoltaics.
Throughout 2021 and beyond, CLC will help businesses to convert to renewable energy, use less energy, make waste redundant and minimise their environmental footprints.
The CLC team also has wide experience in taking new innovative technologies to market, which will be increasingly important.
The end of a double lockdown is a good time to consider huge infrastructure projects – such as the new North Sea sub-sea cables that will bring Scottish green energy to English homes, plus the giant Dogger Bank windfarm.
It is also an opportunity to look at the brilliance of small businesses. One UK SME, for example is planning to produce high-quality diamonds out of thin air during 2021.
By capturing atmospheric carbon, and using solar and wind power plus ordinary rainwater, the Stroud-based company hopes to produce thousands of carats annually with no ‘blood diamond’ stigma.
Ultimate proof that sustainability can be profitable? Simples really – if you can combine knowhow with help of the type the CLC team will be happy to provide.
Online Lunch and Learn events
This is also probably a good point to mention that our online Lunch and Learn webinar programme will be active again in the New Year.
For those who missed it, on 10th December Chartered Environmental Surveyor David Inman FRICS CEnv presented “Delivering Sustainable Development Goals: A Guide to Business”.
David explained why putting the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) into practice is as important for small firms and the business community as it is for countries and governments. Again, everyone has a role to play.
Specifically, he outlined a tactical level low-cost SDGs approach that ties in with many of the CSR and standards initiatives companies typically already run in house.
Incidentally, if you would like more information on SDGs, please email Debbie at email@example.com.
Two key messages for SMEs
David had a dual-message. SDGs help SMEs win public sector procurement and corporate supply chains business was the first. The second was that just as the revolutionary Health & Safety regime seemed alien in the 1970s, SDGs will become mainstream later this decade.
For reference, his company, RICS Regulated firm DIEM Ltd in Formby, delivers environmental, energy, sustainability and business risk solutions to UK based clients and their worldwide operations.
Its clients include FTSE listed companies, some of the UK’s largest brands and capital projects, Russell Group universities and family run SMEs (https://www.diemltd.co.uk/).
The presentation can be seen again on https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMBeSJ0PIVg6FVt0css7s4Q/videos.
War on carbon
The PM’s commitment to cut emissions by at least 68% has been broadly welcomed as a new global benchmark. However, scientists warn it does not guarantee dangerous climate change will be avoided. The UK is still behind its targets set five years ago. But Mr Johnson is optimistic.
“Today, we are taking the lead with an ambitious new target to reduce our emissions by 2030 faster than any major economy”, he explained, adding, “But this is a global effort, which is why the UK is urging world leaders to bring forward their own ambitious plans to cut emissions and set net zero targets.”
“Our planet is broken”
This comes on the heels of a warning from UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, that humanity is waging what he describes as a “suicidal” war on the natural world.
Mr Guterres added, “Nature always strikes back, and is doing so with gathering force and fury”; he wants to put tackling climate change at the heart of the UN’s global mission.
His plea is that every country, city, financial institution and company “should adopt plans for a transition to net zero emissions by 2050” with decisive action taken now to achieve this vision”.
The UK’s cunning plan
The Government’s upgraded climate change strategy was launched in November when Mr Johnson announced a new 10-Point Plan for a UK Green Industrial Revolution with 250,000 new green jobs (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-outlines-his-ten-point-plan-for-a-green-industrial-revolution-for-250000-jobs) designed to work alongside other legislation and initiatives.
Martin Baxter of IEMA joined us recently to explain the importance of the long-awaited post-Brexit Environment bill. However, the Government has also released details of its Agricultural Bill.
This has important implications for the environment and emissions and sets out how farmers and land managers in England will be rewarded in future for “public goods” – such as better air and water quality, wildlife diversity, flooding reduction and resilience.
Soil health and the use of fertilisers that create emissions and run-off will be a particular focus.
National infrastructure bank tied to net-zero
Shortly after the Ten Point Plan, the Government’s new National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS) was also unveiled (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-infrastructure-strategy). It includes proposals for a National Infrastructure Bank to replace the UK’s post-Brexit involvement with the European Investment Bank and funnel capital towards net-zero projects.
The Government pledged in March more than £100bn to be spent on infrastructure in the next five years; the pandemic delayed the NIS announcement.
Green energy superhighway boost
One of the private sector’s most impressive infrastructure programmes will be the building of multibillion-pound underwater power cables to carry Scottish renewable energy to millions of English homes (https://www.sse.com/news-and-views/2020/11/power-firms-unite-to-deliver-underwater-energy-super-highway/).
The Scottish Power, National Grid and SSE Eastern Link project will run from Peterhead and Torness in Scotland to Selby and Hawthorn Point in the north of England. Construction will start in 2024; meanwhile, the three companies will co-sponsor COP26.
The good news for Whitehall is that the interconnectors will support the prime minister’s November party conference commitment to power all UK homes with offshore wind by 2030.
When the wind blows
SSE Renewables working with Equinor has also confirmed the first two phases of the giant 3.6GW Dogger Bank windfarm which, as the world’s largest offshore windfarm, could power more than 4.5 million homes.
The importance of wind was emphasised further by Oil Gas Technology and Offshore Renewable Energy Catapults November research. This analysed what is needed to attract energy investments to the North Sea and increase output by 66% above current levels. (https://ore.catapult.org.uk/?orecatapultreports=integrated-energy-vision-for-2050).
A global CCS capacity surge despite in 2020 Covid-19
One other welcome piece of the jigsaw is that the world’s permanent carbon capture and storage (CCS) capacity saw a 33% year-on-year rise in 2020, according to Global CCS Institute think-tank research.
There are now 65 commercial CCS facilities either in operation or under development internationally, with capacity on track for a storage rate of 116 Mtpa by the end of 2020.
Diamonds in the sky
And if an even more down-to-earth example of effective long-term carbon dioxide capture is needed, Ecotricity founder Dale Vince may have just the thing.
‘Sky diamonds’ made at a ‘sky mining facility’ in Gloucestershire are the ‘world’s first zero-impact’ diamonds, he says, made by combining free carbon with wind and solar energy, plus rainwater.
His aim is to create thousands of carats of carbon-negative laboratory-grown diamonds annually ‘made entirely from the sky”. The price tag has yet to be set.
Ultimate proof perhaps that low-carbon isn’t just pie-in-the-sky.
December 2020 – a promising start for a low carbon 2021?
Green Advent. Can we expect to see progress on a pioneering UK post-Brexit Environment Bill, new US support for next year’s COP26 summit and the Paris climate agreement, plus a detailed UK green recovery plan – all before Christmas? Fingers-crossed, yes!
The final month of an unprecedentedly turbulent year could end on an expectedly up-beat environmental note – with encouraging signs for a far-from-smooth but positive new year to come.
News that a series of Covid-19 vaccines could soon begin to return us to some form of stable new normal has to be November’s most important development. But there are other positive pointers.
Post-Brexit environmental regime
The first, after multiple-delays made worse by a pandemic squeeze on Parliamentary time, is progress at last on the UK’s new and untried Environment Bill that will regulate environmental performance outside the EU.
To update us on recent developments, IEMA’s Chief Policy Advisor Martin Baxter joined us online on 5th November to discuss the bill and new UK green watch-dog, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP). More on what he said in a moment.
Good green news from across the pond
The second reason to be cheerful could come from North America where the strong indications are that a Biden White House will make an early 180 degree climate change policy turn.
The US formally left the 2015 Paris climate agreement on 4th November following a four-year notice period – a day after the 2020 Presidential election.
But the Biden team is expected to play a central role in the November 2021 UN COP26 climate summit co-hosted by the UK in Glasgow; the COP26 goal is to finalise detailed emission cuts from 189 countries to minimise global warming this century.
Green energy strategy … at last
An early present on the pre-Christmas wish-list has been the unveiling of a 10-point sustainable energy plan that builds on the Prime Minister’s October announcement of a major offshore wind power expansion.
To meet the UK’s promise to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the plan includes an early ban on new petrol and diesel vehicle sales, plus more energy-efficient homes and buildings.
It also considers the potential of hydrogen power, carbon capture technology, at least one new conventional nuclear power station, using modular mini-reactors, and the possibilities of nuclear fusion project – the energy powering the stars.
Environmental ringside seat
Martin Baxter joined the Chamber Low Carbon team and guests at the Chamber Low Carbon Programme’s “Environmental Policy Update” meeting on 5th November. If you missed it, the complete and very detailed session where he summarises both positive points and concerns can be seen again at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBx_VRThjcg.
The updated legislative timetable means that the bill’s report stage is scheduled for 1st December; it will also be read for the first time by the Lords. Royal Assent is expected in March 2021.
On its long passage through Westminster, the bill which sets out a new UK governance framework has raised concerns over its suitability to replace the EU’s comprehensive environmental legislation.
One particular area of concern is a new green watchdog – the Office for Environmental Protection – and the amount of power that will lie in the hands of future secretaries of state.
However, whoever holds the post will also have a duty to check how effective environmental laws are in practice, monitor progress in achieving targets and report annually to Parliament. Local authority performance will also be monitored on key issues such as air quality, with High Court sanctions if necessary.
Joined up thinking
One important strength Martin noted is that the bill integrates air quality, waste and water management, resource-efficiency, carbon emissions, plus the natural environment and biodiversity.
Another is that it is also designed to embrace environmental decision-making across all government departments – from education to transport, communities and health.
New Year’s Day
From 1st January 2021 onwards, thousands of new laws, and changes to existing laws, will come into effect. Linked to a one-year Spending Review, Martin believes this could be a beneficial opportunity for the Chancellor to invest in a future based on sustainability.
“It’s positive to hear the Government talk about the importance of a green recovery with climate change at the heart of its thinking,” he said, adding, “It does give me some hope. But words and actions are not always synonymous.”
Key points in the bill
Meanwhile, he noted a number of key points within the updated bill: –
– Waste and the producer’s responsibility will feature prominently, with a sharp focus on packaging waste. Water will see reductions in phosphate and nitrate pollution from farming and a drive to reduce consumption by 2050.
– Air quality will include calls for more collaboration and cooperation between local authorities, plus a strong focus on reducing fine particulates in the air generally and specifically in vulnerable areas.
– Biodiversity will see nature recovery networks across the UK. Reducing the rate of decline will not be good enough. Natural capital will be enhanced. A fall in the quality of SSSIs will be reversed.
UK-based businesses must also stop importing products or materials linked to global deforestation Defra announced on 11 November. Companies must prove that ‘forest risk’ commodities sourced internationally come from deforestation-free suppliers. Soy, palm oil, cocoa, beef, leather, rubber plus wood and paper are covered.
– Non-regression and improved environmental standards will be a key feature which the secretary of state will have a duty to update every two years while noting global environmental developments.
Work has also started on forming legally-binding targets, with public consultations due from October 2021 to February 2022; draft legislation will go to Parliament between March and October 2022
How are we doing on net-zero?
Are we breaking the link between economic growth and environment impact? Yes, says Martin, the UK is beginning to show leadership compared to other countries.
The power sector and industry have delivered the most change; transport and other sectors are lagging behind. The challenge, he adds, is for all parts of the economy to aim for a better environment rapidly as part of the UK’s Clean Growth Strategy.
In his opinion there is still too much emphasis on “net” and not enough on “zero”. Only when “zero” is impossible should “net” be allowed, he believes.
Sixth Carbon Budget
This year will also see the Sixth Carbon Budget (9th December) presented under the Climate Change Act. It will govern the volume of greenhouse gases the UK can emit from 2033 to 2037 and be the first with a 100% rather than 80% emissions reduction target. Martin describes it as a seismic shift.
UK-US special environmental relationship?
Boris Johnson was quoted as saying recently, “I think now with President Biden in the White House in Washington, we have the real prospect of American global leadership in tackling climate change.”
Although the Republican Party may keep control of the Senate, bipartisan cooperation was successful recently in reducing the use of powerful GHG refrigerant hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and in the Bipartisan Wildlife Conservation Act designed to improve conservation and protect ecosystems.
Although the president-elect may have to make political compromises domestically, he has promised to convene a special meeting of world leaders on climate change in his first 100-days.
He could return the US quickly to the Paris climate change process with upgraded emission-reduction commitments. This would be an important foreign policy bonus for the UK as co-host of the pivotal COP26 summit which Mr Johnson is anxious should be a success for post-Brexit Britain.
With the US’ shoulder to the wheel, achieving the Paris December 2015’s COP21 aim of keeping global temperature rises to no more than 1.5C is said to be potentially achievable.
President Biden’s goals
Ideally, Joe Biden would like most US power-generation to be carbon free by 2035, with net-zero emissions by 2050; there would also be emissions cuts from four million buildings.
He also envisages heavy spending on green public transport, electric vehicle (EVs), the manufacturing sector, with new financial incentives to use clean cars.
A White House National Climate Council, a “carbon bank” to pay landowners for storing carbon, vehicle electrification via the transport department, plus a Treasury climate policy that promotes emissions cuts through tax, budget and regulatory policies are also on the cards.
Two to tango
However, for a successful partnership the UK needs to put forward its own an effective net-zero emissions strategy. No 10, No 11 and BEIS have been busy developing a radical 10-point strategy announced on 18th November designed to deliver the UK’s 2050 carbon-free goal.
It will build on the offshore wind power expansion plan the Prime Minister unveiled recently. Building at least one new conventional nuclear power station is another component.
Although six sites were ear-marked a decade ago, only one – Hinkley Point C in Somerset – is currently under construction. A second Sizewell C reactor could be built in Suffolk, with work starting in the life of this Parliament. The potential role of fusion power which joins rather than splitting atoms is also being considered.
A key change will be bringing the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles forward from 2040 to 2030. Other agenda items will be carbon capture technology to clean up some fossil-fuels, hydrogen to replace fossil-fuels, home heating targets using ground-source heat pumps, plus better home insulation and replacing 25 million household gas boilers.
Owning a Rolls
By 2025, Rolls Royce expects to create 6,000 new UK jobs by building 16 small modular reactors (SMRs) around the UK similar to the type that power nuclear submarines.
Manufactured in factories and then moved to site, these could provide 440MW of electricity, enough to power 450,000 homes, over a 60-year life span. However, they will have to compete with increasingly cost-efficient wind and solar power and may be more expensive.
SOS in a bottle
A tiny experiment carried out at the North Pole proves that we have little time to waste in facing up to the consequences of global warming.
A metal cylinder sunk into the polar ice in 2018 by passengers and crew of a nuclear icebreaker was found on the Irish coast in November after breaking free of the Arctic Circle and travelling 2,300 miles!
A busy month ahead. Join our newly expanded low carbon team in an online update of the all-important Environment Bill, a textiles in the circular economy event, to learn what the bees are up to, and for expert energy and waste support.
The past month has seen important international, national and North West regional low carbon announcements as well as major positive changes in our own Chamber Low Carbon Programme. More about these in a moment.
However, we start on 5th November – a date normally linked to a potentially very high carbon event – with another of our regular inside track environmental policy updates from IEMA Chief Policy Advisor, Martin Baxter.
Martin will look closely at the UK’s long-term direction of environment and climate change travel, the impending tough 6th Carbon Budget, and post-Brexit trade prospects.
To take part the discussion from 13.00 to 15.00 GMT on Thursday 5th November, please register for free at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/environmental-policy-update-with-martin-baxter-tickets-123181590453
Before then, you can also join us online from 14.00 to 16.00 GMT on Thursday 29th October for “Textiles in the circular economy”.
This event is important to a large regional industry and has been organised by the Liverpool City Region and Chamber Low Carbon Circular Economy Club and Liverpool Fashion Summit. It will look at how the textile and fashion sector can move away from linear extraction to a more circular model.
Registration is at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/textiles-in-circular-economy-tickets-123673708391.
Creating a buzz
One further diary date is “Bees and biodiversity – key workers in our economy”, a LIVE Lunch and Learn seminar on Thursday 12 November from 12.00 to 13.30 GMT that will explore one of the most challenging aspects of environmental management many organisations face. (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/chamber-low-carbon-live-lunch-learn-bees-and-biodiversity-key-workers-tickets-122377166399).
More detail on each of these events follows later.
Through the autumn we will be inviting you to meet our new Chamber Low Carbon (CLC) team members and explaining how our expanded specialist service will work in practice to give you highly-focussed auditing and advice.
Before then, the past month has been important for low carbon developments at number of levels.
The East is green
One surprise was an unexpected commitment made by China’s President Xi Jinping via a video link to the UN General Assembly to reach peak greenhouse gas emissions before 2030 and then become carbon neutral by 2060.
The announcement, which is seen as a significant step in the fight against climate change, comes as the US withdraws from the Paris climate agreement initiated in 2015. Details of the complete Paris political and practical decarbonising process were due to be finalised at COP26 in Glasgow next month. However, Covid-19 has pushed the crucial global summit back a year to 2021.
China is the world’s largest source of carbon dioxide and currently responsible for some 28% of global emissions. Its president’s bold statement about his country’s plans to tackle emissions included a called to all nations to join in a green recovery for the world economy.
China’s emissions rose in 2018 and 2019 at a time when much of the world began to move away from fossil fuels. When the Covid-19 crisis struck, the country’s emissions fell by 25% but bounced back as coal-fired plants, cement and other heavy industries came back in stream.
In wrong-footing America, but following the suggestion made recently by EU leaders that it cuts its emissions, China may have given the global climate process new momentum. The wider question is whether the US will follow, given that China is not only the world’s largest emitter but also its biggest energy financier and market.
Pledge to power every UK home with offshore wind
Closer to home, the Government has also laid out its ambitious goal of powering all UK households by 2030 from a rapidly expanded offshore wind sector.
In a “virtual” Conservative party conference speech, the Prime Minister said Covid-19 should be used as a catalyst to make the UK a clean power generation world leader. He added, “Your kettle, your washing machine, your cooker, your heating, your plug-in electric vehicle – the whole lot of them will get their juice cleanly and without guilt from the breezes that blow around these islands.”
The UK is already home to the world’s largest single wind farm at Cumbria’s Walney Extension, a title that will soon pass to the Hornsea One project off the Yorkshire coast.
Mr Johnson, who in 2013 said offshore wind “couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding” now wants offshore generating capacity to rise from 30GW to 40GW in a decade, turning the UK into “the Saudi Arabia of wind power”.
No ill wind
The Government will make an initial “build back greener” investment of £160m to upgrade factories and ports on Teesside, the Humber, in Scotland and in Wales needed to build and transport the next generation of giant turbines, which to meet the PM’s target will have to be installed a rate of one every working day throughout the coming decade.
However, the full cost of the programme, which should also create 60,000 jobs directly and indirectly by 2030, one source estimates to be circa £50 billion; government will also have to speed up its seabed licencing and contracts process.
The offshore wind announcement is the first of a 10-point “green industrial revolution” plan due to be announced by the close of 2020 which may include further investments in industries, innovation and infrastructure needed to support the UK’s 2050 net zero commitment.
North West net-zero industrial cluster by 2030
Major businesses are backing net-zero industrial cluster plans around Ellesmere Port that could also create 33,000 new jobs in line with the Government’s commitment to fully decarbonising at least one industrial centre by 2040.
Net Zero North West was launched officially in October with participants that include CF Fertilisers, Encirc, Essar Oil UK, INOVYN, Peel L&P Environmental, Siemens, Storengy and Tata Chemicals Europe, plus support and representatives from giants like BASF, Unilever and IBM.
Tata Chemicals Europe’s experience from a Northwich carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) project could help the cluster to sequester 10 million tonnes of CO2e annually from 2030 onwards.
The cluster could also host nuclear power plants, renewable energy arrays, ‘blue’ hydrogen production facilities, plus ‘smart’ energy grid technologies to “unlock flexibility”.
SME Recycling Working Group
Meanwhile, CLC programme manager, Stephen Sykes, is now a regular member of a Defra national working group looking closely at how small and medium-sized companies can support the circular economy by improving recycling rates in England up to a 65% municipal target by 2035.
The Environment Bill introduces legislation to improve the recycling of plastic, glass, metal, paper and card, food and garden waste from households, businesses and organisations like schools.
The group’s work will inform the next stage of policy development and implementation timescales. Interim aims are to test assumptions and decisions about policy implementation and its unintended consequences, represent the SME sector, identify SME sector challenges and identify evidence gaps.
As promised, here are more details about online events which you are cordially invited to join.
– Environmental Policy Update with Martin Baxter
An important point that Martin Baxter made recently is that for the Brexit slogan “Taking back control” to be true for the environmental, people must have a genuine say in their greener future. Access to environmental information and public participation in environmental decision-making is central to democratising the environment at a level that people can relate to local communities.
However, environmental data sources are often highly fragmented and not readily accessible, with information often found in different silos. “It’s not easy for professionals – if you’re a lay person you probably wouldn’t bother”, he says.
Environment Bill proposals for a national Environmental Improvement Plan, Local Nature Recovery Strategies and environmental monitoring are a good start but don’t go far enough to genuinely give people a green voice, he adds.
Robust environmental data and information must be available in an accessible form. Digital technology is important in building on historical datasets that show how the environment has changed over time, leading to a wider understanding of the current state of the environment.
A legislative framework is needed for a green democracy, he believes – with the Environment Bill a perfect opportunity. Join Martin with us on 5th November.
– Textiles in circular economy
The event on 29th October will share the experiences of an expert panel from academia, textiles and fashion sectors on challenges, opportunities and collaborations to be found in the circular economy.
Panel members are Professor Helen Goworek, an author and University of Durham lecturer whose research has explored buying behaviour and the relationships between product development and sustainability. Jennifer Davies is the co-founder of Nabil Nayal, which keeps sustainability at the core of everything it does.
They will be joined by Ross Barry, a Director of LMB Textile Recycling and Chair of the Recylatex Group, which is at the forefront of UK garment and textile recycling, and Dr Ashley Holding who founded Circular Material Solutions to help companies make the transition to circular business models.
– Bees and biodiversity – key workers in our economy
We look forward to welcoming Simon Cordingley, co-founder of The Bee Centre (https://thebeecentre.org/home/) near Chorley which is a multi-award-winning centre of excellence for bee-related education, breeding and husbandry and internationally renowned for its unique ethical beekeeping programme that ‘creates a buzz about bees’.
Simon will explain why biodiversity is now so important, the role that bees and other pollinators play in maintaining a healthy environment and economy, and how organisations can make a positive biodiversity impact – in particular by engaging with bees and other pollinators.
– “Leading the Charge: Electric Vehicle ChargePoints for your community”
If you missed our 1st October online meeting with Daniel Heery and Ady Powell of Charge My Street (www.chargemystreet.co.uk/host) who looked at what is involved in installing and maintaining publicly accessible EV chargepoints to encourage people to switch to EVs, the session can be seen again at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fcfdsXj5ck.
NHS 2040 net-zero emissions target
It is very appropriate that while facing up to the ongoing challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, NHS England has announced plans to achieve net-zero emissions within two decades through a complex series of new initiatives that will create 40 net-zero hospitals and include a £50 million LED lighting upgrade. At present, the NHS accounts for 4% of the UK’s carbon footprint.
NHS England, which employs more than 1.2 million people, has set a net-zero emissions target by 2040 with an intermediate 80% reduction target between 2028 and 2032.
The NHS will also aim to reduce emissions under its influence, including travel and suppliers, to net-zero by 2045. Again, there is an 80% interim reduction target, this time of 2036 to 2039.
The current Chamber Low Carbon programme developed by East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce in partnership with North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, BOOST and Businesswise Solutions Ltd has secured additional funding from the European Structural & Investment Funds via the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government up until June 2023 to provide services to the SME community of Lancashire for:
To compliment and support the programme partners own Energy and Environment Teams delivery of this programme, East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and Industry is seeking to procure the services of a number of consultants with specialist knowledge and skills, via Framework Agreements.
Energy and Environmental Advice
Low Carbon Innovation and Technology Development Advice
We are also looking for quotations for journalistic and thought leadership support to promote the programme and its offering to the business community of Lancashire.
The specifications for the Request for Quotations can be found via the hyperlinks.
All quotes are to be returned by 12:00 noon 24th August 2020 to Louise Gaskell (contact details contained within application links).
This does not affect prior submissions and all applications will be reviewed accordingly.
Solar and savings – crisis energy and Government exemptions
How long to a green recovery? Companies can maximise their use of cheap green energy, legally minimise Government energy charges and cut hidden building energy costs … while waiting. Our webinars below show that every little helps when the going gets really tough!
As the Prime Minister unveils his vision to build back better on a grand scale, he is under considerable pressure to create a green economy and the net-zero carbon transition for at least two key reasons.
The first is because they offer a long-term sustainable route out of the current pandemic crisis. The second is that they are also the UK’s best option for preparing effectively and quickly to meet the next impending nightmare – climate change.
Covid-19 has side-tracked normal Parliamentary business, including the long-awaited post-Brexit Environment Bill; the environmental implications of a final Brexit deal – or no deal – are also unclear just six months before the UK finally cuts its current EU links. Many pieces of the jig-saw are still to be placed.
However, on the optimistic side, business secretary Alok Sharma did commit the UK in June to the UN’s ‘Race to Zero’ campaign (https://unfccc.int/climate-action/race-to-zero-campaign) to pump life into Glasgow’s pivotal COP26 climate conference now moved forward a year to November 2021 (https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/cop26-president-speech-at-race-to-zero-campaign-launch).
Action this day … and some good news!
Meanwhile, there is a lot we can do while waiting. The Chamber Low Carbon (CLC) programme mission includes providing local companies with customised hands-on advice – now delivered successfully mainly online – to support sound renewable power decisions and cut overall energy use.
Our own good news is that we can now confirm that the CLC programme will continue until July 2023!
Importantly for many companies, this means that we will continue to process funding applications remotely to help shape their low-carbon future. Many audits are now made via the internet. We are also asking businesses to provide photographic evidence.
If you would like more information, or to talk to the CLC team, don’t hesitate to contact us directly. Please email Debbie, our marketing officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling 01254 356 487.
Triple energy webinars
Meanwhile, to provide further support in the current circumstance, the CLC team has organised a trio of lockdown online Lunch & Learn webinars in which guest expert speakers tackle important business energy issues.
If you are not able to join us live the first time round, each be seen again on YouTube.
“How Solar has changed & how it can help” – on 5 June, Ged Ennis of The Low Carbon Company (https://www.lowcarbonenergy.co/) explained how solar energy has moved on massively in recent years, with up-to-date information on costs and benefits to businesses, ways of financing projects and how the current crisis can be used to re-set the economy and industry.
Ged’s presentation can be replayed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tRbpfPG2kQ&feature=youtu.be. If you have any questions, please contact Ged directly (email@example.com), or talk to a member of our team. We’re here to help.
“Government Cost Exemptions – how to claim” – on 19 June, Andrew Warner, an independent Energy Manger at Green Technologies (https://www.green-technologies.co.uk/) gave a very pragmatic and well-received presentation that can be seen again at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tpg8cT1tX0.
Again, if you have any questions, either speak to Andrew directly (firstname.lastname@example.org), or contact the team.
“Help … my buildings are wasting all my energy!” – looking forward to 12 noon on Friday 3 July, Andy Brunt and John Pickup, Directors of Edge Efficiency (https://www.edgeefficiency.co.uk/) a Lancashire-based energy and sustainable buildings specialist, will look at this ticklish topic.
You can book in advance to join us live at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/low-carbon-lunch-and-learn-helpmy-buildings-are-wasting-all-my-energy-tickets-110952120780. This is also an opportunity to ask individual questions that may be bothering you – with confidential follow-ups later.
Because we believe that it is important to act in small ways to support the wider national picture, a brief overview of the first two presentations may be useful.
The sunny side of solar
Ged’s goal is to help businesses make the most out of solar power, now and in the future, as energy use changes. He emphasises that solar is cost-efficiency with relatively short payback periods (typically five years) compared to a 25-year product lifespan and low maintenance requirements.
While solar power still only accounts for about 3% of UK national power output today, the industry has changed dramatically over a decade. Ten years ago, solar panels had an output of 180W. Today they are rated at 340W, with 580W units now entering the market. Output power costs of 3p/kWh also stand well against general electricity prices of 13p to 16p/kWh.
Another attractive measure of solar industry performance is that while a 50kW system would have typically cost some £250,000 to buy and install in 2010, the price has now fallen to circa £30,000. Inverters, which are a kind of electrical converter, have also improved in leaps and bounds and now offer internal controls, monitoring and smart functions, says Ged.
The commercial benefits are substantial, he adds. They include increased property prices, high rental values, low maintenance commitments, plus support for CSR (corporate social responsibility), meeting ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) international management standards and supply chain requirements.
Other positives include well-proven technology, the lowest installation costs ever, greater system efficiency and increased power outputs per m2. No planning permission is needed for small installations.
There are three routes in for companies interested in installing solar power – outright purchase; a 100% funded option; and PPA (power purchase agreements where no capital outlay is involved). Systems can also be linked to large storage batteries, electric vehicle (EV) charging point and VPPs (virtual power plants which are cloud- based decentralised power generating networks).
To make a sustainable difference, some 2.5MW of new solar power capacity needs to be installed each year. Although inevitable weather-based fluctuations in renewable power generation mean that large storage systems – mainly batteries – are needed to balance the grid, these are not cheap enough yet to be commonplace. However, it is important for individual companies not to miss out on a straightforward green technology whose time is coming.
Please see the presentation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tpg8cT1tX0), or talk to Ged if you would like more information.
Money saved from Government
Andrew was keen to point out that companies should act promptly to benefit from energy cost exemptions that they are legally entitled to from the Government. While the amounts may seem small now, costs are set to rise dramatically, he says. At the same time, the window of opportunity could be short if the Exchequer is forced to save money wherever possible to make up for Covid-19-related emergency spending.
As an example, an energy cost of, say, £30,000 in 2014 would have risen to between £40,000 and £45,000 today, en route to a projected £57,949 by 2025. No small change!
Andrew adds that so-called “pass through costs” – such as CCL, Duos, transmission, RO, FiT, BSUos, CM and CfD – increase energy prices and will keep on rising. Again as an example, he says that of a 13p/kW price today, 8p is an extra non-commodity cost.
Under current BEIS and HMRC schemes, it is not possible to recover the full 8p, but a substantial portion of it.
However, he also had a serious word of warning. Claiming exemptions successfully is partly down to straightforward accounting and partly an engineering audit function on site that looks at buildings and equipment. Engage the wrong advisor and, yes, you are likely to be awarded an exemption … but could then have to pay it back within 14 days after an HMRC audit!
Please see the presentation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tpg8cT1tX0), or contact Andrew if in any doubt.
The good, the bad and the worrying
There is other good news about low-carbon innovation, but also less good news about the world’s rapidly closing opportunity to beat climate change, plus UK progress during 2020.
The good – Highview Power’s Pilsworth liquid air energy storage plant in Greater Manchester will build the world’s largest liquid air battery. Spare renewable energy will be used to compress air into a liquid that can be stored and released later as a gas to power a turbine (https://highviewpower.com/).
The not so good – on the less cheery side, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says the world has six months to change course and stave off a climate catastrophe. “This year is the last time we have, if we are not to see a carbon rebound,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol, told the Guardian in June (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/18/world-has-six-months-to-avert-climate-crisis-says-energy-expert?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0dyZWVuTGlnaHQtMjAwNjI0&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&CMP=greenlight_email&utm_campaign=GreenLight).
His logic is that governments worldwide will spend $9 trillion (£7.2 trillion) over the next few months hauling their economies back from the current health crisis. Their stimulus packages will shape the global economy for the next 36 months, he argues. Therefore, it is vital that emissions start to fall sharply and permanently in this period. Otherwise, climate targets will move out of reach!
“The next three years will determine the course of the next 30 years and beyond,” he told the Guardian. Without action, emissions will “surely” rebound he believes, and “… it is very difficult to see how they will be brought down in future. This is why we are urging governments to have sustainable recovery packages.”
The worrying – the Government’s independent advisor, the Committee on Climate Change also warns in its 2020 Progress Report to Parliament (https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/reducing-uk-emissions-2020-progress-report-to-parliament/) that too little is being done to tackle “overheating homes, flash floods, biodiversity loss and the other threats posed by a dangerously warming world”.
Measures it may recommend include: – enforcing strict environmental condition to corporate bailout matching standards in France, Germany and Canada; improving broadband and cycling routes to cut future car-use surges; considering a new fossil-fuel tax, and; introducing new building energy-efficiency policies, planting more trees and protecting peatlands.
But ending on a high note
Despite worries of a lack of low-carbon progress, June also saw encouraging reports that renewable energy accounted for almost 50% of UK power generation from January to March 2020. A huge surge in offshore wind power, rising more than one third over the year with a 53% increase in the winter quarter, plus higher output from solar panels, is said to have been behind the setting of a new clean energy record.
A wind power record of 22.3% set in the final months of 2019 was overtaken by a 30% share of total power production in the first quarter of 2020.
According to official government data, renewable accounted for some 47% of power generation in the first quarter, a substantial leap from the 39% record established in 2019. Government figures include energy from windfarms, solar panels, hydro plants, bioenergy from wood chip burning … but not coal!
Rebecca Williams of Renewable UK predicted that more records will be inevitable in the years ahead due to “a massive expansion of renewables as part of the UK’s green economic recovery”.
Old King Coal’s reign ends
During the recent lockdown, helped by reduced energy demand and bright breezy weather, offshore wind and solar energy allowed Britain to operate for 67 days, 22 hours and 55 minutes up to 16 June without coal-fired power – the first time this has happened since the start of the Industrial Revolution.
This year’s theme for World Environment Day, Time for Nature, strikes a chord with our engagement with the natural environment during lockdown. While confined to our homes, we have valued our access to green spaces and reconnected with the importance of nature for our physical and mental wellbeing. We have noticed wildlife more, as human activity has been quietened, and we have enjoyed the views revealed by clearer air.
Having pressed the pause button on many polluting activities, lockdown has given us a glimpse into a cleaner, lower emissions world. Cycling has become a more popular mode of transport, rush hour has been almost non-existent as we’ve adapted to working at home, demand for oil has fallen, and many flights have been cancelled with domestic tourism posing a more viable option for holiday makers this summer.
Clearly this is not progress, with these changes having been brought about by the devastating circumstances of the pandemic. However, the pandemic is a testament to society’s capacity to make major changes in cooperation with scientific advice, which is something that has been lacking in the context of climate science.
Since 1974, World Environment Day has been celebrated on 5th June as an opportunity to encourage the government, the public, businesses, and public figures alike to engage with environmental issues. With progress and adaptation being on the agendas of governments around the world as we look to rebuild our economies and restore quality of life, now more than ever it’s vital that we encourage policy makers and influential figures to engage with environmental issues.
The deviation from ‘normal’ that the pandemic has caused is an opportunity to bring about change. Recovery could be a vehicle for the sustainable development of our previously carbon-intensive economies, if governments align recovery plans with climate science and invest in green stimulus packages. Furthermore, our glimpse of a less polluted, lower emissions world could help to build to momentum needed to achieve this change. In fact, 155 companies with a combined market value of over 2.4 trillion US dollars have already signed a statement to governments around the world urging for a green recovery.
The right stimulus packages could bring us closer to achieving the sustainable development goals, while investing significantly in fossil-fuel intensive industries and activities could take us further away. This would further embed inequality, with the repercussions of climate change and environmental degradation, including the emergence of new diseases, disproportionately affecting the poorest and most vulnerable.
However, it is not solely within the hands of governments to implement change; businesses, organisations, communities, and individuals all have a part to play. In line with World Environment Day, Chamber Low Carbon is hosting our online Lunch and Learn Event, ‘How solar has changed and how it can help’. Join the online event at 12 pm, Friday 5th June to learn from our guest speaker how solar power could enable your business to make positive changes for the environment and for your energy bills.
Additionally, if you’re a Lancashire-based SME, Chamber Low Carbon could also help you access funding for to 50% of the costs up to £15,000 or 30% of costs up to £25,000, for installing renewable technologies such as solar through our grant scheme. Sign up to the event using the link below: