Minister calls for action, business says yes!
by Adam Woodhall — Nick Hurd, the new Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry at BEIS (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), recently called for support from the business sector to help deliver an effective Emissions Reduction Plan. He also looked forward to the Marrakech COP22 as an opportunity to continue the journey from “compliance and aspiration” to implementation of the Paris agreement.
At an event hosted by the Aldersgate Group in London, Hurd was the keynote speaker. He confirmed that the UK will ratify the climate agreement reached at Paris “as soon as possible”. In response, the three representatives from business on the panel—Marks & Spencer, Legal & General Investments and Vattenfall—echoed these positive words, and laid out their own visions for a low carbon future.
Brexit changes everything
The chair of the event and of the Aldersgate Group, Joan Walley MP, opened by expressing excitement that China and the US were ratifying the COP21 agreement. Hurd followed by commenting on how Brexit had changed so much of the political landscape, but that he was confident Prime Minister May was serious about the UK being connected to global issues and that climate change was the biggest. Whilst he observed there were many indicators which give cause for optimism, he stated he was also very aware that emissions are still rising.
The Minister addressed the concerns regarding the merging of DECC into BIS to create BEIS. He suggested that the two separate departments hadn’t worked well together and that the new department is an ideal response to the new political landscape, the success of the Paris agreement and the opportunities offered by a low carbon industrial strategy.
Bold voice of business needed
Hurd’s rallying call to business was: “We need a voice of business that is bold, positive, ambitious and backed by evident action. I am very keen to work with business to ensure that the Emissions Reduction Plan is credible and sufficiently substantial, and that the industrial strategy fully reflects the most up-to-date thinking for private capital opportunities. If we get these two things right, we will be well on track to ensuring we rise to the challenge for this country to move to a resilient, low-carbon economy where business plays its part.” This sentiment was mirrored by Nick Molho, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group in a recent article in the Economist.
The business representatives enthusiastically supported this appeal. Meryam Omi, Head of Sustainability at Legal & General Investment, observed that the direction of travel is good as investors are making the right noises about climate change, but there is still a default strategy in the investment industry which finances fossil fuels. This runs counter to what the younger generation wants, as she referenced research that demonstrated they are thinking differently about their pensions: looking long term, which naturally factors in climate change.
From “if” to “how”
Andreas Regnell, Senior Vice President, Strategic Development of the Swedish power company, Vattenfall, commented that Paris was so important as it was a fundamental move in the right direction; it helps everybody look at how to distribute risk. He also shared the optimistic view, observing that his company has gone from an “if” 100% renewables to “how” 100% renewables. This means their engineers are now focused on creating low or no carbon solutions.
Mike Barry of M&S can be relied on to provide an incisive summary of what is needed, and he did not disappoint. He offered three main opportunities that the new minister can help with: promoting green growth, sorting decarbonisation strategies and localising & democratising. Additionally, Barry suggested that he sees his role as making M&S carbon literate, and he suggested that Hurd’s opportunity is to do the same for the new BEIS department.
Returning to the title of the event; “COP22 in Marrakech: from negotiation to implementation”, Barry suggested that if the forthcoming conference of the parties is a “boring” technical gathering, which gets things done and moving forward, then it’ll be a success. When asked at the end of the Q&A ‘what one thing could the attendees do’, Barry closed the event by suggesting that we seize the opportunity to be positive.