Author Archive Clare Scurr

Call for Consultants – Extended

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:

  • The stimulation and up take of energy and environmental efficiency measures and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Work with Lancashire technology developers who have low carbon technology products that are now “close to market” and need support to move their products to full commercialisation.

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

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 d.treadwell@chamberelancs.co.uk, 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 (info@lowcarbonenergy.co), 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 (andrew.warner@green-technologies.co.uk), 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.

Time for nature and time for change

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:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/low-carbon-live-lunch-and-learn-how-solar-has-changed-how-it-can-help-tickets-103935477812

 

 

Will hydrogen knock out carbon?

One of the few positive upsides to the coronavirus crisis has been a sharp fall in fossil-fuel and welcome rise in renewable energy use, with new sources making their debut and the long-awaited age of ‘clean’ hydrogen gradually moving a step closer.

A key part of the Chamber Low Carbon Team’s brief is to help companies make well-informed choices in buying and using, but also generating their own renewable energy – via solar panels and wind turbines, plus combined heat and power (CHP) systems and heat pump technologies.

As online attendees of our latest Lunch and Learn event on 22 May will know that, after a slow start, the widespread use of ‘clean’ hydrogen could also be about to make its commercial entry.

Charley Rattan’s expert presentation on “Opportunities for the Hydrogen Economy” particularly for SMEs and innovators already in, or wishing to join the supply chain and find a route to market, can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63clRfXvNeo.

Our next online event will be “How Solar has changed & how it can help” on Friday 5 June from 12:00 – 13:30. To join us, please book at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/low-carbon-live-lunch-and-learn-how-solar-has-changed-how-it-can-help-tickets-103935477812

Also book for “Government Cost Exemptions – How to claim them” on Friday 19 June (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/low-carbon-live-lunch-and-learn-government-cost-exemptions-how-to-claim-tickets-105525437424).

Both sessions will, of course, be available online later.

The universe’s smallest atom

The term “hydrogen economy” is about decarbonisation and refers to using hydrogen as a low-carbon alternative to the established fossil-fuel economy in transport, the wider energy network and as a chemical feedstock.

There are two key points to note about hydrogen in the renewables mix – or three bearing in mind that it is the smallest atom on the Periodic Table which can make it a great escapologist from storage vessels.

The first is that hydrogen is not a primary energy source but an energy carrier – as a useful gas it has to be ‘made’ or isolated.

The second is that while hydrogen power cells produce only oxygen and water as waste products, it is only ‘green’ if produced sustainably. Processes such as methane-stripping which also produce carbon dioxide are not sustainable.

But as Charley explains, the day of carbon-free hydrogen is approaching. With copious renewable energy now on the horizon from not only offshore but also onshore wind farms, plus economically-generated solar park energy, hydrogen produced by splitting water with electrolysis could now be an effective green energy store.

More on that in a few moments.

Huge emissions fall

The flipside of the good news coin is that CO2 emissions fell back to 2006 levels at the height of the coronavirus crisis.

Interim estimates, which still have to be verified officially by more detailed data reports, indicate that the global emissions fall linked to human activity could have been as much as 17%. This included a circa 50% drop from land transport and 15% from non-renewable power generation.

At the same time, while industrial emissions fell by some 35%, household levels as people stayed at home rose by an unsurprising 5%.

Research by New Scientist (https://www.newscientist.com/article/2243875-coronavirus-set-to-cause-biggest-emissions-fall-since-second-world-war/?utm_campaign=Carbon%20Brief%20Daily%20Briefing&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Revue%20newsletter) forecasts that the ultimate drop this year over 2019 will be some 4.2% to 7.5%. More disappointingly perhaps this equates to only a circa 0.0010C saving on global warming and will not on its own slow down climate change. We will have to do much more to achieve that!

But they could rise again

The other less cheery note is that the gain could be temporary without a renewed effort. Evidence from China suggests that air pollution could bounce back quickly as the UK leaves lockdown.

A new study (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-020-0797-x) also says that not flying, driving less and working from home still leavers “the bulk of emission sources intact”. BBC News (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52724821?utm_campaign=Carbon%20Brief%20Daily%20Briefing&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Revue%20newsletter) reports concerns that emissions could rise higher than before the health crisis as people return to their cars.

Renewable energy itself could contract

And another victim of the crisis ironically could be renewable energy growth itself as overall demand falls (https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-iea-renewables/global-green-energy-growth-to-fall-for-first-time-in-20-years-iea-idUKKBN22W0G6). Rather than the 19% expansion seen in 2019, the International Energy Agency warns that this could be cut dramatically to just 6% (167Gw) in 2020, although a rebound is possible if governments support a ‘green economic recovery’.

However, The Guardian also examines how renewable energy “could spur [the] UK’s post pandemic recovery while tackling climate change” (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/19/how-renewable-energy-could-power-britains-economic-recovery?utm_campaign=Carbon%20Brief%20Daily%20Briefing&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Revue%20newsletter).

Supporting this, Britain has moved into sixth spot in the EY’s “attractiveness index” biannual global survey of investor renewable energy destinations (https://www.ey.com/en_gl/recai); the UK is now behind Germany, Australia, France, China and the US in top spot.

Electric car costs fall and oil stays underground

Positively, the ‘i’ suggests that by 2027 large electric cars in Europe will be cheaper than their fossil-fuel equivalents and that Covid-19 “will not torpedo the switch to greener driving”.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times refers to a new report suggesting that more than 33% of oil and gas in UK waters could remain in the ground if oil prices stay at depressed levels caused by low demand during the pandemic (https://www.ft.com/content/759c7bf3-9115-4e20-9a05-2110032d7344?utm_campaign=Carbon%20Brief%20Daily%20Briefing&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Revue%20newsletter).

UK manufacturing companies benefit from low-carbon

Another new study taken before the coronavirus, this time from the manufacturing association Make UK and energy company E.ON (https://www.edie.net/news/6/Report–UK-manufacturers-boosting-profits-by-focusing-on-energy-efficiency/?utm_source=dailynewsletter,%20edie%20daily%20newsletter&utm_medium=email,%20email&utm_content=news&utm_campaign=dailynewsletter,%20102851ce4e-dailynewsletter_COPY_803) finds that 40% of UK manufacturing firms report increased profit margins from energy-efficient improvements and decarbonisation measures; 30% are said have seen increased competitiveness.

It also finds encouragingly that 90% are aware of the UK’s net-zero emissions by 2050 target, and nearly 50% see the low-carbon transition as a business opportunity and are prioritising low-carbon techniques and technologies to improve their own bottom-lines, as well as for the wider good.

Some 75% are said to understand the benefits of digitisation, 57% now have smart meters, 78% are collecting energy usage data and 65% have behavioural change programmes to encourage staff to improve energy efficiency. The belief is that this can continue as the pandemic eases.

The return value of investment

According to Make UK CEO Stephen Phipson, “These results show that manufacturers are committed to playing their part in the transition to a net-zero carbon economy. As businesses recover and learn from the Covid-19 crisis, they have the opportunity to ensure improved sustainability is factored into their resilience plans.

He adds, “As well as taking steps to reduce energy use and CO2 emissions, they are developing the innovative new products and services we all need to decarbonise.”

E.ON UK CEO Michael Lewis commented, “Both Government and the energy industry must work to remove barriers to further investment as reported by manufacturers, notably cash flow and profit margin impacts, as well as payback periods on investments.

He continued, “The Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated that collaboration and cooperation across government, industry and society can transform how our economy operates and we must now work together to deliver a green recovery which continues the transition to a low-carbon economy but also makes economic sense.”

Hydrogen

Returning to the role of hydrogen – and renewables in general – developments are being made on many fronts, including with MPs.

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is looking for advice on clean low-carbon hydrogen production and potential uses for both economic growth and meeting the 2050 target in homes, businesses and transport networks as part of its Technological Innovation and Climate Change inquiry.

EAC chairman, Philip Dunne MP, noted, “In 2018, 95% of hydrogen was produced using fossil fuels, so it is clear there are significant hurdles that must be overcome for it to become a viable, clean energy source.” The EAC inquiry wants to know if “environmentally friendly hydrogen can be produced at scale, or if it is merely a pipe dream.”

He adds that the UK now has the largest global offshore wind capacity and extensive gas networks which can both be used to produce, store and transport green hydrogen.

Government hydrogen funding

In February, the Government also announced £90 million to help cut emissions from industrial processes and the built environment by switching industrial production from fossil fuels to renewables – in industries including glass and cement production. It will fund two plants.

Some £70 million will help finance low-carbon hydrogen production plants near Mersey and Aberdeen; a third project will use offshore windfarms near Grimsby to produce clean hydrogen.

Large-scale global use of clean hydrogen across the energy, transport and industrial sectors could reduce their annual emissions by up to 34% by 2050 at a “manageable cost” according to Bloomberg NEF latest published in March (https://about.bnef.com/).

European developments

A number of major European electricity groups – including Enel, Iberdrola, Ørsted, and EDP – urged the European Commission on 22 May to prioritise renewable hydrogen in its pandemic recovery plan (https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/electricity-giants-join-forces-on-renewable-hydrogen/?utm_campaign=Carbon%20Brief%20Daily%20Briefing&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Revue%20newsletter).

In March, French train-maker Alstom completed 10 days of hydrogen-train tests between the Dutch cities of Groningen and Leeuwarden so The Netherlands can follow Germany which launched its Lower Saxony all-hydrogen train service in September 2018.

Also in The Netherlands, Shell unveiled plans in March to develop by 2030 what it says will be Europe’s largest ‘green’ hydrogen generation project. New 3-to-4MW North Sea wind farms will power an electrolyser at a “mega-hydrogen” facility in Eemshaven that will eventually produce circa 800,000 tonnes of hydrogen annually to be used across North West Europe.

North West focal point

A new North West project will also create a skills roadmap for the low-carbon transition. The North West Energy & Hydrogen Cluster, led by the University of Chester and Manchester Metropolitan University, will look at “complementary” skills from the oil and gas sector to scale up for hydrogen and carbon capture. When complete, the decarbonised cluster could create 33,000 jobs and save 10 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

Giant grandfather clocks underground?

Hydrogen and industrial-sized batteries aside, other potential forms of energy storage may seem so obvious that the question is probably why they haven’t been used before. ‘Gravitricity’ (https://www.gravitricity.com/), for example, is a greatly scaled-up version of the grandfather clock.

The concept uses spare renewable energy to create and store potential energy by lifting weights of up to 12,000 tonnes from the bottom of old mine shafts. The cost from a typical 10MW lithium-ion battery is some £283/megawatt hour; the gravitricity equivalent is £132. In May, the company announced that it will develop a demonstrator project by December on a site near Edinburgh.

More renewable energy from underground?

Abandoned deep mines could also potentially provide warm water by tapping into the ‘geothermal gradient’. Temperatures under Britain rise by around 250 per kilometre; above the boiling point of water they can drive steam turbines. Again, heat pumps working like a fridge in reverse can boost even small temperature differences.

In March 2020, South Tyneside Council announced a £7 million district heating scheme tapping into geothermal energy from the flooded Hebburn Colliery near Newcastle which closed in 1932. It will save 319 tonnes of carbon annually; the heat pumps will be powered by solar panels.

Heat pumps can also be used to take the heat of summer down into bedrock under buildings as a mass low-temperature thermal energy store which can be brought to the surface again in winter, a technology used widely in Scandinavia.

The UK also has many geothermal hotspots. Newcastle upon Tyne has studied using geothermal energy from 2km below city streets at 80°C. Southampton’s geothermal power station opened in 1986 and provides heating for the city hall, a superstore and swimming centre, 300 flats, hotels and the city’s port.

Biomass and anaerobic digestive systems using organic material to produce biogas open up even more possibilities.

Government plans to change UK transport for ever

Highways as quiet as 1955 – permanently?

Freedom and the open road! The Government says its net-zero emissions transport roadmap will be delivered on time in 2020 – but with new post-COVID-19 priorities to nudge private vehicles off the tarmac, boost public transport, encourage ‘active travel’ and invest more in online-working.

April has been an unusual lockdown month. In addition to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ surprise policy announcement, it also witnessed the 50th anniversary of Earth Day – online!

Much has changed since 22 April 1970 when a first Earth Day poster stated starkly, “We have met the enemy and he is us”. Earth Day 2020 took this now self-evident truth much farther, adding that concerted climate action is vital if we want to defeat what could become the world’s largest crisis.

The Chamber Low Carbon team was formed to endorse this essential long-term message and we will continue to provide all our services remotely through the present health emergency.

Low carbon online

This includes inviting you to our regular series of Low Carbon Live Lunch and Learn seminars online. Updated programme details can be seen at https://www.chamberlowcarbon.co.uk/events/ and you can join us by Zoom or phone.

If you miss a session, don’t worry. We are also providing links to presentations already given by our expert speakers – on YouTube, plus PowerPoint, PDF and word documents.

Our most recent seminar on Sustainable Procurement is already available on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ghy3uXa4iZg. Chamber Low Carbon Marketing Officer Debbie Treadwell can provide more information. And other members of the team are always here to help.

A time for new ideas

Transport was a dominant April theme. But there were other interesting developments. One mentioned later is a curious but innovative Dutch proposal to beat sea-level rises by building dams to turn the North Sea into a giant freshwater lake. The key message is it’s time to think big!

Thinking big, it is also important to mention the Government’s 15 April 2020 ‘Notice to proceed’ on High Speed 2 released to provide ‘construction sector certainty’. Lancashire, as the home of the world’s fourth largest aerospace cluster and an automotive sector larger than the West Midlands’, urgently needs improved transport links that are compatible with the new emerging world order (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-provides-construction-sector-certainty-by-confirming-notice-to-proceed-on-high-speed-2?utm_source=98c43723-7086-4bf2-9acc-dc517ad6ebe2&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate).

Shapps at the climate sharp end

Grant Shapps’ new policy announcement caught many experts by surprise; it was described by Stephen Joseph, visiting professor at Hertfordshire University, as “… utterly gob-smacking”.

His radical proposals released “quietly” in the foreword to the Government’s De-Carbonising Transport consultation discourage private travel and car ownership in favour of public transport, ‘active travel’ by cycling and walking, plus a dramatic rise on online homeworking.

“Twenty-twenty will be the year we set out the policies and plans needed to tackle transport emissions. This document marks the start of this process”, Mr Shapps said, adding that “the shift in emphasis away from driving – where possible – could improve people’s health, create better places to live and travel in, and also promote clean economic growth.”

“Public transport and active travel,” he continued, “will be the natural first choice for our daily activities. We will use our cars less and be able to rely on a convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network.”

Quiet roads – Back to the Past!

The Department for Transport (DfT) says it is still on track to deliver the policy roadmap this year in line with the UK’s 2050 net-zero target for decarbonising “every single mode of transport”.

In October 2019, the plan was launched to clarify how businesses will help to transform transport as currently the UK’s highest-emitting sector. The original goal was for publication this autumn ahead of the now postponed COP26 summit in Glasgow.

The DfT also confirms that it will host a “series of events, workshops and opportunities” this year – despite the health emergency – and wants not incremental but systematic changes to ensure that only zero-emission vehicles are on UK roads by mid-century.

Integrated networks

Modal shift’ is a major topic at the moment driven by online buying. It extends from the import of goods at high-volume ports, transfers to trains and road freight vehicles at major storage hubs like Doncaster and Daventry, and ‘last mile’ sustainable distribution centres in local communities.

In the new transport policy, financial support will be needed to create “coherent and cost-effective” modal shift networks, plus effective behaviour change communications and support, says the DfT. This will include a “universally recognised measure and tool” to calculate journey CO2 footprint.

New cash priorities

Chris Stark, CEO of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) also wants ministers to reconsider road-building plans and switch the investment into broadband. “I would spend the roads budget on fibre. You would get a huge return to the economy with people having better connections,” he says, adding, “You would save people’s time and increase their productivity.”

Other ‘shovel ready’ sustainable investment projects could help the UK out of the COVID-19 crisis, including an electric vehicle charging infrastructure and energy projects such as onshore wind.

The big challenge, he says, is insulating draughty UK homes – a pledge made in the Conservative manifesto but not repeated in the most recent infrastructure announcement. The labour-intensive renovation of homes would also provide essential jobs in a UK zero-carbon economy.

The CCC also appreciates that a holistic approach is needed to resolve outstanding issues – high upfront vehicle prices, a lack of mature circular economy solutions for batteries, and the fact that vehicle sales significantly outpace charging and refuelling infrastructure rollouts.

AA viewpoint

The AA is generally seen as the motorist’s friend. However, it also anticipates a permanent post-COVID-19 cut in travel as people use home-working technology. It notes that the Chancellor’s current plans to spend £27 billion on curbing road congestion – plus £100 billion on HS2 – may need redirecting to more broadband infrastructure funding to support home-working.

The argument is that if commuters spend even one day a week working from home, road use will fall to school holiday levels.

Professor Greg Marsden of the Leeds University’s Transport Studies Unit adds that Government traffic growth projections behind the roads programme are 1% annually – or 35% by 2055. Funding should now be diverted to rebuilding public transport and more zero-emission vehicles.

However, former Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, Andrew Adonis, believes it is too early to forecast a permanent traffic fall. With a growing population, more people generally equal more travel, he cautions.

What the numbers say

The Treasury says, “Roads are crucial for connecting people, places and businesses, with freight logistics businesses depending on the road network working effectively to get goods in the right places.” It added that the Budget set a “record commitment of £5bn to support the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband” and that it remains committed to climate change targets.

According to Cabinet Office Data, road travel on 29 March fell by some 73% to levels last seen in 1955. Walking, cycling and car and van journeys dropped by circa 75%, bus numbers by 60% train use by 90% and lorry movements by 40%.

The key to accepting permanent change

When it comes to accepting long-term work and travel habit changes, the CCC has taken a psychologist’s advice about public readiness to accept major adjustments. Its key message is that the longer the change lasts, the more it becomes the new normal.

People first resist change. Then they get used to new situations with benefits that make them reluctant to change back. In terms of transport, the longer change last, the more “sticky” it becomes.

Meanwhile, a survey of more than 2,000 people found that nearly two-thirds think the most popular future employment mode will be flexible working; many added that flexible hours are now crucial when choosing a job. A third would rather have flexible working than a pay rise.

ZOOM fatigue

Many people are now reporting ‘Zoom fatigue’, which also applies to Skype, FaceTime and other video-calling interfaces. The conclusion is that virtual interactions are extremely hard on the brain.

Assistant professor of cyberpsychology, Andrew Franklin, at Virginia’s Norfolk State University, says people are surprised how difficult video calls can be when confined to a small screen (http://www.nsu.edu/andrew-franklin).

Humans communicate even when they are quiet, he explains. During in-person conversations, the brain focuses on spoken words, but it also the meaning of dozens of non-verbal cues – is someone is slightly turned away, fidgeting while you talk, or inhaling quickly to interrupt. These clues are important in knowing how to response,

An eye for an eye

Video calls in comparison require sustained attention to words, especially if screen quality is poor and hand-gestures cannot be seen. “For somebody who’s really dependent on those non-verbal cues, it can be a big drain not to have them,” Franklin adds. Extended eye contact is now the strongest online facial cue but can be threatening or intimate if maintained too long (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/eye-contact-how-long-is-too-long/).

However, the Chamber’s low carbon seminars are clearly so engaging that no-one is likely to experience this problem!

A very Dutch solution to rising sea-levels

A Dutch government scientist says building two mammoth dams around the North Sea could protect some 25 million Europeans from rising sea levels driven by global warming.

Oceanographer Sjoerd Groeskamp says a first 475km dam between north Scotland and west Norway, and a second 160km-long between west France and south-west England, are “a possible solution”.

With colleague Joakim Kjellsson, he says the idea is affordable and technically feasible – though meant more as “a warning of the immensity of the problem hanging over our heads”.

The cost of building a so-called North Sea Enclosure Dyke they estimate to be between €250bn and €500bn over 20-years; 14 countries would be protected for just over 0.1% of their combined GDP.

The North Sea between France and England is rarely more than 100m in depth; the average depth between Scotland and Norway is 127m, peaking just over 320m off the coast of Norway. Fixed platforms are already built in more than 500m.

The authors acknowledge that their project would eventually turn much of the North Sea into a vast tide-free freshwater lake, radically changing its ecosystem.

They also agree that this may not be the best solution. But with a rise of 10m by 2500 under the bleakest scenario, their message is that it is important to ‘think big’!

Remote working – virus & climate change

Working remotely to tackle three crises together!

COVID-19 and carbon. By working from home, the Chamber Low Carbon team will maintain uninterrupted low-carbon business services throughout what we hope will be a short-term health crisis to avoid a longer-term environmental disaster – and help fight a waste crime epidemic.

As circumstances change, we will let you know about any new arrangements for quick and easy remote access to our free low-carbon advice, plus help in making important new business contacts.

Very importantly, you can continue to apply for financial support from our £4 million European Union, European Regional Development Fund part funded programme.

The team is also converting our poplar face-to-face “Lunch and Learn” low-carbon seminars into online webinars – where unfortunately you will now have to provide your own lunch at home! However, you will still hear from experts who can answer all your questions as before.

The upside of a lockdown

An estimated three billion people globally are now under transport restrictions even though they are using more energy in the home and for heating. The net result is a significant fall in emissions.

Our new Low Carbon team colleague Lizzie Hebbert has been looking at air quality improvements since the lockdown began which you can read about at https://www.chamberlowcarbon.co.uk/2020/the-corona-virus-pandemic-what-are-the-consequences-for-air-quality/.

Hard-hit New York has reported a 50% year-on-year fall in carbon monoxide from cars. Researchers also expect that May – when CO2 emissions normally peak because of leaf decomposition – could see its lowest northern hemisphere carbon figures since the 2009 financial crisis.

However, the wider question is whether gains made now are sustainable and if greenhouse gas emissions will stay permanently low when the lockdown ends?

COP-out?

The answer may not be straightforward because the relationship between the climate emergency and COVID-19 raises some potentially complicated questions.

A long-term solution may depend on our willingness as individuals to keep on curbing our energy-use when the present crisis lifts – a key Chamber’s low-carbon programme priority!

Meanwhile, an important indirect environmental victim of COVID-19 is COP26, the UN climate change conference the UK was due to host in Glasgow in November that has now been pushed into 2021 (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cop26-postponement).

It is impossible to delay the climate crisis

Environmental campaigners and climate leaders are planning to maintain pressure on world governments to stick to the stringent and critical new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) emission reductions that were to be put into place this year at COP26.

However, if there is a silver lining it could be that the UK which is criticised for not been well-prepared to organise the pivotal global conference now has more time.

As Nicholas Stern – author of the formative 2006 Stern Review – explains, “There is an opportunity in the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis to create a new approach to [economic] growth that is a sustainable and resilient economy in closer harmony with the natural world”. He adds, “That will be the challenge and opportunity of COP26 next year. We must use this time well.”

Avoiding US elections

There was already some uneasiness that the conference would have started within two days of the US Presidential elections scheduled for 3 November 2020. The New Scientist wonders whether a Democratic winner entering the White House might reverse President Trump’s decision to leave the 2015 Paris climate agreement and then go on to develop a stronger low-carbon plan.

However, the Financial Times worries that postponing COP26 robs the EU “of a milestone that was being used to strong-arm some of its climate laggards to get their act together this year”. Other commentators urge the UK to move ahead in areas like transport, land-use and home-heating before COP26 to prove that it really is on-track for net-zero emissions and can show true global-leadership.

Joint coronavirus and climate change solutions

The jury is probably still out on whether the cooperation and social cohesion seen during the COVID-19 pandemic will lead on to long-term behavioural improvements when more normal conditions return, or if relief, release and an urgent economic recovery will push us back into bad old habits?

The logic of the second scenario is that once free of government-imposed virus restrictions, people are unlikely to welcome them back over a longer period for less immediate climate goals.

Former UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary from 2010 to 2016, Christiana Figueres, believes that the world will rise to the challenge, “The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed humanity’s instinct to transform itself in the face of a universal threat and it can help us do the same to create a livable planet for future generations,” she says.

Professor Mike Berners-Lee of the Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancaster University, has been quoted as saying, “Covid-19 is a re-evaluation and re-wiring opportunity. It won’t be much fun but it does give humanity an enforced chance to stop and think.”

Pros and cons

Other observers say tough climate crisis measures will be less harsh than virus rules, that we have an opportunity to create better systems and climate crisis structures, and that current “trillion-dollar” interventions show that with political will and society’s support, drastic steps can be taken quickly.

However, others caution it is too early to understand what works and what does not, the balance between behaviour and technology, and how governments will re-stimulate their economies – after the 2008-09, financial crash, carbon emissions shot up by 5% when fossil fuel use was boosted.

There is also a general view that shutting down the economy is not an alternative to helping people live low-carbon lifestyles and investing in sustainable infrastructure.

Breaking down resistance

Leo Murry, Director of Innovation at the zero carbon society campaign group, Possible (https://www.wearepossible.org/) has a specific slant. He says that in the short- and long-term, people will deal with COVID-19 challenges that define their behaviour, and that “getting consumers in rich nations to shift to more sustainable lifestyles is incredibly difficult, even at the best of times.”

He adds that “almost all forms of direct entreaty or psychological nudge to individuals to voluntarily change their behaviour to combat climate change do not work, or at best have very limited impacts”.

Significant behaviour changes need “structural changes to the choice architecture in which individual consumers make decisions, such as regulations to ban certain products or activities, large price hikes, or new infrastructure”.

“Moments of change”

One exception he suggests is “moments of change” – moving house or job – where old behaviour and habits are disrupted and new, active choices are made that can create fresh patterns.

Intervening at these moments can help to steer people into lower carbon patterns more effectively than trying to prise them out of existing habits, he says.

COVID-19 has interrupted hundreds of millions of lives and is an example of mass “habit discontinuity”, especially in personal mobility which is an area that is difficult to shift, he believes.

However, he adds that while ending lockdown might be a good time to question old lives and make better ones, coping with economic problems and other crisis impacts could make this challenging.

Avoiding waste crime – a crisis in the making

On 6 March, Environment Agency guest experts described the impact, cost and disruption caused by an accelerating number of large-scale waste crimes to attendees at our last face-to-face Lunch & Learn seminar.

If you were not at “Waste Crime and Duty of Care”, please contact our team for advice. You might also find it helpful to look at the following websites: –

Good carbon news

New BEIS figures released on 26 March (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/875485/2019_UK_greenhouse_gas_emissions_provisional_figures_statistical_release.pdf) show that year-on-year UK domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions fell by 3.6% in 2019; renewable energy use reached a record 36.9% of all electricity generation. A recent Carbon Brief analysis concluded that we have reached a level last seen in 1888 while the economy grew by a fifth.

The main reason was a 29% fall in coal use in 2019 which brings total coal carbon emissions over a decade down by 80%. Oil and gas emissions fell by 6% and 20%.

However, Government projections show the UK will miss its legally-binding carbon targets later this decade without a further 31% fall by 2030. Current data suggests we are on track for a 10% cut.

“In the past decade, we’ve seen unprecedented changes in Britain’s power system, which has transformed at a speed never seen before,” Dr Iain Staffell of Imperial College London comments. He adds, “If this pace of change can be maintained, renewables could provide more than half Britain’s electricity by the end of this decade and the power system could be practically carbon free.”

High-carbon homes!

Transport is the main UK carbon emissions source. However, some 28% is linked to lighting, cooling and heating buildings. A further fifth come from heating and powering homes.

Nearly two thirds of UK homes do not meet long-term energy efficiency targets, according to BBC data. More than 12 million fall below the C grade on Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) from A-G. Many householders spend much more on energy bills than necessary and release tonnes of CO2. Huge retrofitting measures are needed for homes built before 1990.

The situation is said to be so bad that the 65.9 million tonnes of carbon emitted by UK homes in 2018 were higher than emissions from the power stations generating our energy supply.

We now need to apply many of the low-carbon principles used in business at home! BEIS also announced on 2 March plans to power millions of additional homes with renewable energy (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/millions-more-homes-to-be-powered-by-renewables?utm_source=2b2369ba-24a9-4747-b057-2e9151ff992e&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate).

The UK’s first climate change refugees?

Flooding, the COVID-19, oil price wars and wild financial markets made March a difficult month. Persistently wet ground has caused a growing number of potentially dangerous landslides on sloping ground, plus subterranean sinkholes.

Environment Agency chair, Sir Bevan, says the current policy of housing and property developments on floodplain land must stop. However, for some coastal communities it is already too late.

Pity the poor people of Fairbourne in Gwynedd, a village on the west coast of Wales, who have been called the UK’s first climate change refugees after the Government announced they will must leave 450 houses, a pub, post office and several shops by 2054 because of sea-level rise threats and coastal flooding linked to climate change.

According to CNN the problem could be global and affect us all (https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/02/world/beaches-disappearing-climate-change-sea-level-rise/index.html?utm_campaign=Carbon%20Brief%20Daily%20Briefing&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Revue%20newsletter) with half of the world’s beaches disappearing by the end of the century!

The environment remains a key priority.

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

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

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

Is there a positive amongst all the negative?

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

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

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

What changes can we make from here?

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

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

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

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

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

Article author: Lizzie Hebbert

BIBAs 2020 Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

Receive independent recognition of your achievements.

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

Generate ongoing local, regional and national PR.

Raise business trust, reliability and credibility.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leaping ahead in February

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

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

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

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

A long-term national and regional investment

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

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

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

Join us at Lunch & Learn

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

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

The world belongs to Glasgow

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

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

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

In the pipeline

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

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

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

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

No new internal combustion engines

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

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

High-flying ambitions

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

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

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

Oil, gas and coal

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

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

Lunch & Learn – come and join us

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

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

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

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

Sustainable Procurement20 March, 12.00 until 14.00

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

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

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

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

– Transport and Fuel Efficiency

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

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

Other early 2020 CLC events included: –

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

– Energy Bill Reduction!

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

What is the worst case climate change scenario?

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

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

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

Not out of the woods yet

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

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

Why clouds shouldn’t get in the way

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

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

The remaining 51% will be a challenge for Glasgow.

EU green deal, SDGs and other New Year news

Converging or diverging green goals?

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

Mind the policy gap!

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

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

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

Money talks

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

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

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

The Continent goes its own way

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

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

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

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

Size isn’t everything

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

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

Agreeing to differ?

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

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

What’s in it for companies?

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

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

UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

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

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

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

Ending hunger globally and locally

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

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

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

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

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

More on the EU Green Deal

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

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

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

Follow my new leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

UK approach

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

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

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

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

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

Well received

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

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

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

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

Ditching Davos

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

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

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