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.
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Following a successful launch of the Circular Economy Club Chamber Low Carbon in June 2019, planning is underway about the direction the club will now take, and we want to hear your views on what to do next. This is your chance to be part of this growing sustainability movement and influence the future of our Circular Economy Club.
The Chamber Low Carbon programme launched our own Circular Economy Club (CEC) in a special event at Brockholes Nature Reserve near Preston, Lancashire in June 2019. We joined forces with the Preston CEC to bring together professionals, businesses and organisations from Lancashire and further afield. Following an introduction to the CEC from Chamber Low Carbon programme manager, Stephen Sykes, the audience watched a screening of Closing the Loop, the world’s first feature-length documentary on the circular economy.
The event finished with an engaging Q&A session where audience members asked an expert panel their opinion on how best to roll out the circular economy and achieve buy-in from businesses.
The next step for our CEC is to decide what direction it takes. This is not a decision to be made by the Low Carbon team alone; we’re looking for your input on what you would like to see happen. We’re forming a steering group made up of those who want to engage with businesses in creating a more sustainable future. We welcome your opinion on what events, activities and initiatives to work on so we can try and make a real change.
To express your interest you can call 01254 356482 or email email@example.com.
You can also join a LinkedIn group for the CEC with over 60 members already in conversation. You can join here.
The week of 28th October – 2nd November 2019 is the CEC “Circular Cities Week” and we’ll be getting involved with our next event. The exact details will be something agreed with our steering group so make you sure you let us know what you would like to see.
Our popular Lunch & Learn series of workshops giving businesses expert insight into a host of environmental and sustainability topics returns in September.
This time we’re looking at the hot topic of Climate Emergency. We can guarantee it will be a highly informative session with plenty of opportunity of networking with like minded professionals.
The event will start at 12:00 for lunch and networking, with the session starting from 12:30. Following the session there will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and for further networking over refreshments.
The Chamber Low Carbon team will be on hand to discuss the support and funding available through the Low Carbon programme.
This workshop is part of a regular Lunch & Learn series giving Lancashire businesses the knowledge and tools to go green. To keep up-to-date with further workshops subscribe to the Chamber Low Carbon newsletter.
Through close collaboration and partnerships, passing on good practise and plugging into the many leads now being pioneered by familiar corporate brands, small companies can make an important low-carbon difference both locally and to the deepening climate crisis.
It can be frustrating running a small company and wondering whether your factory unit, work on site, consultancy or office-based business is improving or harming the local environment.
You might also be keen to know if the products you sell, services you deliver and technical solutions you create are adding to or subtracting from the growing global warming crisis.
Fortunately, SMEs in the Northwest don’t have to answer this question alone. Free advice and support from the Chamber Low Carbon (CLC) team across a wide range of sustainable issues can be just a phone call or email away – tel. 01254 356 487 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, with autumn looming an important knowledge-sharing programme starts in September as the fifth cohort of our Green Rose programme gets underway. Full programme details, how it works and how to join are given later after we look at monthly developments and green finance.
Meanwhile, whatever your specific problem, issue or opportunity, the CLC team is here to discuss ideas, explain how grant funding works and visit you on site, if that is the best way forward.
Climate change is once again on the policy agenda. The Government is under pressure to explain how the UK’s new net-zero policy will be rolled out by 2050, if not sooner – with a warning that having “put up a new speed sign”, ministers must now find practical ways to slow down the traffic!
In the North of England, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool have joined a growing list of UK and European cities declaring local climate emergencies with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, switching to non-fossil fuel energy sources and tackling the growing waste mountain.
These local emergency declarations coincide with the Government reporting its Voluntary National Review (VNR) to the UN in New York on UK progress towards the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” adopted by all UN Member States in 2015 as a “blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”.
The agenda enshrines 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that countries are committed to meeting in a global partnership to end poverty and other deprivations, hand-in-hand with strategies to improve health and education, reduce inequality and stimulate economic growth – while tackling climate change and preserving oceans and forests. The SDGs are an important part of Green Rose.
One of the most symbolic environmental events of a long, wet summer ascribed to oscillations in the jet stream linked to rising temperatures in the melting Arctic, has been young climate activist Greta Thunberg’s zero-carbon Atlantic voyage to speak at UN climate summits in New York and Chile.
Against a background of political and environmental uncertainty, the summer has also seen a growing number of physical environmental tipping points around the world.
In July, parts of the Mexican city of Guadalajara were buried under a 1.5m thick layer of hail stones. State governor Enrique Alfaro commented, “Then we ask ourselves if climate change is real. These are never-before-seen natural phenomena”. Also in July, parts of Alaska within the Arctic Circle sweltered in a heatwave, with outdoor swimming in Anchorage and children walking barefoot.
In fact, with wildfires blazing across northern Canada and Siberia in August, rapid melting of the Arctic permafrost is causing concern. Frozen soils are thawing, often for the first time in thousands of years, and releasing carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide; it is estimated they hold twice as much carbon as the atmosphere at circa 1,600 billion tonnes.
Another area where many enterprises need help is funding. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) research says there is no shortage of global finance to drive the low-carbon transition, but there is a “lack of political will” to quantify risks and create the confidence needed to put money where it is needed.
Small companies, as good supply chain partners, can often show clients their green credentials directly. The problem is more complicated for listed national or international corporate business organisations with remote investments from banks, pension funds and other financial institutions.
The question until recently has been how to bring the interests of both parties together. In September 2017, the Government asked finance expert and former Mayor of London, Sir Roger Gifford, to chair the independent Green Finance Task Force.
As a result, the Government Green Finance Strategy and Green Finance Institute were launched this summer to improve how capital is allocated.
The aim is to close the data gap between developers and investors anxious, firstly, to fund “green” projects such as renewable energy, green house-building and low-carbon infrastructure, and secondly make sure that any investments they make themselves, or on behalf of financial customers, won’t be future hostages to environmental misfortune.
The Green Finance Strategy will support the UK’s radical net-zero emissions by 2050 policy and put clean growth at the centre of the UK’s Industrial Strategy. The Government describes it as “a comprehensive approach to greening the financial system, mobilising finance for clean and resilient growth, and capturing the resulting opportunities for UK firms”.
One question often asked is how committed is business, and the financial sector, to the UK’s low-carbon transition? We know that many companies are delivering sustainable solutions that are inspiring examples to others. But by “simply getting on with it” they miss the recognition they merit.
National and international projects that other businesses can learn from include Tesco taking the lead in the Champions 12.3 initiative which aims to cut food waste by 50%, the Carlsberg zero-carbon strategy and a lot of detailed work by IKEA mentioned later. Regional examples include programmes run by Nandos and Booths in the North West with local suppliers.
However, there is another way where by sharing knowledge Northwest companies, charities and service providers are upgrading their skills and credentials as reliable green partners and sustainable supply chain members.
And that is building – and very importantly operating – their own highly-bespoke environmental management system (EMS) with free professional help on the Green Rose programme.
Green Rose participants have a series of options. Many choose to prepare for external accreditation to the internationally recognised ISO 14001 (environmental) and ISO 50001 (energy) management standards, the British Standard BS 8555: 2016, or EMAS. Those not aiming for the standards can still provide evidence of their environmental commitment with their Green Rose certificates.
Our next Green Rose group of ten cooperating companies begins on 11th September and is structured over six months with monthly half-day masterclasses. For more information, please see – https://www.lancschamber.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Chamber-Green-Rose.pdf.
The overall goal is to create a documented journey of continuous year-by-year environmental and energy management improvement to high standards by enabling company environmental champions, managers and support teams how to find, quantify, mitigate or eliminate risks.
These can range from cutting greenhouse gas emissions linked to poor energy use, water pollution from process effluents, transport contributing to poor air quality, inefficient lighting and many other environmental “aspects” that “impact” on the environment. These are then listed in a company or organisation Significant Aspects Register.
The next stage is identifying and taking mitigating measures; businesses can prioritise which aspects they want to tackle first. It is also important to be aware of, and comply with, relevant regulations and legislation.
A periodic high-level review by senior executives committed to the programme is crucial, followed by reiterating the cycle to achieve the continuous improvements assessors look for each year.
Session 1 introduces key environmental and climate change issues, highlights the benefits of improved environmental management, explains environmental management standards and stresses the importance of commitment and active leadership.
Session 2 looks at how individual businesses operate, the importance of identifying, understanding and documenting interested-party requirements, what environmental impacts a company causes, plus the role of legislation and regulations.
Session 3 considers UN SDGs, assessing carbon footprints, developing carbon management plans, and compiling a compliance obligations register.
Session 4 sets company goals, looks at the role of environmental management programmes, plus roles and responsibilities.
Session 5 covers implementation and communication, operational control and emergency preparations.
Session 6 reviews internal auditing, non-conformance and corrective actions, the importance of management review and the external accreditation process.
Green Rose provides a comprehensive set of example system and operational procedures. Participants are also entitled to a FREE Energy and Environmental Audit and Action Plan. A grant aid system supports energy and resource efficiency measures identified in action plans.
As the saying goes, when neck-deep in alligators it is easy to forget that the original aim was to drain the swamp. SMEs busy making their own important contributions can learn from big brand names that have the resources to act on a much wider-scale. The Co-op is an example.
Keen on ethical values, the Co-op recently joined a long list of businesses committed to the Paris 1.5C goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2025; others include BT, Tesco, Carlsberg, Pukka Herbs, Carbon Credentials and Burberry.
The Co-op aims to halve direct emissions and reduce supply chain emissions by 11%; it halved emissions from 2006 to 2016 and plans a 50% reduction by 2025; last year it achieved a record 20% decrease. As chief commercial officer, Michael Fletcher, explained, “How we do business really matters. The world is experiencing a climate crisis and we need to work together to avoid it.”
Toshiba wants to reduce environmental impacts throughout product lifecycles via energy-efficiency, improved resource use and new low-carbon technologies. Its business model is to generate a “virtuous circle” in all business activities while still meeting stakeholder needs.
IKEA has invested €1.7 billion in renewable energy projects that include building 416 wind turbines and installing 750,000 solar panels on its buildings. By 2020, it wants 100% of its energy to be renewable and will use only renewable and recycled materials in its products, shops and restaurants. Home deliveries will be emissions-free by 2025.
It’s good to talk and we know that every little helps. But it’s particularly good to cooperate and share low-carbon experiences.
New technologies, more efficient products and improved ways of working – coupled with a circular economy mentality, renewable energy and big behavioural changes by us all as consumers – are essential for a complete low-carbon transition. They also make good business sense.
Victorian engineering, clever 20th century ideas and smart 21st century thinking have brought us to where we are today – a rapidly heating world with toxic waste streams and hard-to-meet growth ambitions. Something different is needed.
But recent messages are mixed and confusing. While the UK now has a binding net-zero 2050 emissions target, Heathrow airport – described as Britain’s largest carbon emitter – wants to build a third-runway. This means that to meet our overriding legal and moral obligations, large, medium and small low-carbon innovations are needed more urgently than ever before.
Fortunately, we have inspiring examples on our doorstep. The Energy Ace case study later in this piece shows the Chamber Low Carbon (CLC) team in action speeding up the company’s innovation route to market.
It also illustrates how the £4 million part-European funded programme helps to remove barriers that many businesses find it hard to shift.
Traditionally, taking good ideas to market has been linked to vision but mostly shear hard work. Entrepreneur, Thomas Edison, didn’t foresee the low-energy LED. But as inventor of the incandescent light bulb he described genius as “… 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”.
As encouragement, he added, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” – a path familiar to modern day entrepreneur, James Dyson, who developed more than 5,000 revolutionary vacuum cleaner prototypes over 15 years before eventual success in 1993.
Edison also said, “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless”.
To remove the hassle faced by earlier pioneers for sustainable inventiveness, part of the CLC mission is to support innovative-breakthroughs in low-carbon technology with product development support and prototype design verification, plus sourcing local manufacturers along with marketing and demonstration event support.
The CLC team is also geared up to expand low-carbon supplier networks, provide business consultancy support, organise meet-the-manufacturer-and-supplier networking events and showroom space.
Another important aspect of our work is helping companies to adopt low-carbon and renewable energy technologies on-site through demonstrator visits, showcase opportunities and installation support.
As a Chorley-based manufacturer and green energy solutions provider, Energy Ace has developed a range of energy saving systems that reduce power consumption and improve energy-efficiency for industrial, commercial and domestic users.
In typical cases, the company achieves 10% to 30% electricity savings. However, it faced a marketing communication problem with clients.
The CLC team worked closely with Energy Ace on a trial project to identify and overcome a key marketing barrier – the need for remote data analytics and accurate diagnostic evidence relating to customer sites that can be used to improve energy consumption and reduce wastage through applying Voltage Optimisation and Power Factor Correction.
As CLC Consultant Ian Trow explained, defining a product/service clearly with CLC’s help means greater transparency for both customers and the company. The result is improved visibility to measure and design specific solutions for individual clients. CLC was able to “help bring this new low carbon product to market in a defined project plan underpinned by a robust marketing and promotion strategy”.
The key differentiator is that remote data management now allows Energy Ace engineers to target energy-efficient products correctly to specific customers with the right demand profile and right configuration for their personalised needs.
The upshot is that, to date, 14 x Beta site sales have been installed and are operating as expected on large industrial plant processes, agriculture, commercial and manufacturing sites. First estimates suggest a reduction of 131 tonnes CO2e (equivalent) in the first three months of the beta trial.
With this trial evidence, Energy Ace’s next goal is a volume launch of its product to the marketplace.
CLC Supply Chain Manager, Darren Thomas, explains the Chamber Low Carbon programme’s input. “Our role was to identify market opportunities and provide development support. We helped Energy Ace to update and clarify its business planning and strategy to better understand its market. CLC also provided training in Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) enabling technologies.”
“This led us to the need for remote diagnostics and analysis of real-time customer data to pinpoint problem bottlenecks and appropriate solutions swiftly and impressively,” he adds.
The Government actively encourages and funds innovation through Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, to drive productivity, economic growth, cost-reductions and the power of new UK world-class ideas.
On a national-scale, Innovate UK de-risks innovation across all economic sectors, value chains and UK regions; since 2007, it has invested some £2.5 billion in 8,500 organisations, with £1.8 billion match funding from industry, resulting in 70,000 new jobs and £18 billion added to the UK economy.
BEIS also manages a competitive Energy Entrepreneurs Fund aimed at SMES and start-ups to improve energy-efficiency, power generation, heat and electrical storage.
In addition, BEIS is encouraging 11-to-16-year-old entrepreneurs to develop future technologies and apps designed to cope with challenges such as measuring air pollution, climate change and healthy ageing in a £1 million competition along the lines of the Dragon’s Den.
To end her premiership, Prime Minister Teresa May committed the UK to be one of the world’s first counties to create a net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions economy by 2050, with transport, heating and industry as major targets. Norway and Finland also have ambitious goals.
She did so against a background of mounting UK public concern, further evidence of extreme weather events at home and globally, European pressures, and probably a future-eye on her legacy.
The Times said the target was “welcomed worldwide”, the FT added that shadow chancellor John McDonald is talking to experts about a possible 2030 deadline. But popular movement Extinction Rebellion (XR), which wants immediate action for Britain to reach net-zero in the next decade, described the 2050 delay as an avoidable “death sentence”, adding, “… people are already dying and this will only get worse with far off dates”.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) – the Government’s environmental advisor – recommended a net-zero emissions goal in May. From a business perspective, former CCC head, Adair Turner, commented, “The way I see it is that 2030 is really forcing it … The 2050 target is a sensible one, there is a logic about being able to roll over capital bases, if you take 30 years to do something you can transform at a lower cost.”
President Trump, who wants the US to be a major oil and gas exporter, disagrees actively with the idea of dangerous man-made global warming. His UK state visit in June highlighted the environmental contribution America could make in achieving key 2015 Paris climate agreement goals if it wasn’t planning to leave in 2020.
However, actions and attitudes could be changing, as the confirmation hearing of the US’ United Nations nominee ambassador, Kelly Craft, suggests. She said she will “be an advocate for all countries to do their part in addressing climate change”, adding that “human behaviour has contributed to the changing climate”. “Let there be no doubt: I take this matter seriously.”
April statistics show that US renewables capacity has now past coal – 21.56% compared to 21.55% for the first time – according to US Government data. An extra 1.5GW of wind capacity and 1.4GW of solar were installed in the first four months of 2019.
A University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute study found this year that 70% of Americans now believe that climate change is real, based mostly on personal experience. Elsewhere it was reported that US “peak negativity” has been reached.
The Economist noted that floods and storms are altering American attitudes to climate change. A University of Washington research report also predicts that on the current trajectory hot conditions could kill 5,800 people in New York annually, 2,500 in Los Angles and more than 2,300 in Miami.
Meanwhile, six Democrat-led US states have adopted CO2 emission elimination policies. Connecticut now expects utilities to take up to 2GW – a third of the state’s electricity needs – from renewables and could invest $70 billion in an offshore wind expansion. It previously planned for 300MW.
Oregon is on the verge of passing legislation capping GHG emissions, bringing it into line with neighbouring Washington State and linking it to giant California’s carbon trading market.
However, the UK does not escape with free conscience. Environmental Audit Committee MPs accuse the UK of sabotaging its climate credentials by “claiming victory on home soil” but investing billions in high-carbon power plants through “unacceptably high” of fossil-fuel subsidies to developing nations. Meanwhile, MPs on the International Development Select Committee say the Government must “help the poorest countries tackle climate change, or UK aid will be rendered useless”.
Closer to home, Heathrow Airport controversially hopes to construct a third runway by 2026, with terminal 2 and 5 expansion until 2050. The plan includes diverting rivers, moving roads and rerouting the M25 through a tunnel.
Local and environmental groups argued that this will mean unacceptable levels of noise, pollution and add carbon emissions from more than 700 extra planes a day.
Heathrow’s plan has Parliament’s backing and survived multiple High Court challenges. A public consultation until 13 September is the final step before a planning application is submitted. If successful, runway work will begin in early 2022.
Edison’s long-term business success and persistence caused him to comment that, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”. Today’s equivalent is likely to be a combination of overalls, software and laptops!
On perseverance, he said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up”. But he had a strong commercial trait too, adding that, “Everything comes to those who hustle while they wait”.
Together, we can help to turn failures into successes.