COP21 and UK industry

Posted on 21 Dec 2015 by The Manufacturer

Christmas celebrations in Paris look set to be delayed for the UN negotiations on climate change which take place there over two weeks in December. Terry Scuoler explains.

Given the astonishing levels of international diplomatic activity, corporate and other pressure group interests being represented, the entire event looks unlikely to be a source of peace and goodwill to all men, but days and nights of long-discussions on hard fought political and policy principles.

Terry Scuoler, CEO, EEF
Terry Scuoler, CEO, EEF.

Yet, this is a fresh opportunity to establish a new and meaningful approach to tackling greenhouse gas emissions, now all the major players are coming to the table. The outcome of which could have a resounding impact for the world and generations to come if successful.

The talks are welcome and important for industry, but they must avoid the trap of locking in unambitious targets and rapidly outdated goals that leave British firms – and the environment – at a major disadvantage.

A large degree of the technology and innovation to deliver a sustainable climate deal is being developed by industry in Britain, and represents a huge leap forward in terms of the potential benefits for industries across the manufacturing diaspora globally.

Our companies are at the forefront of this leading the drive to improve efficiency and effectiveness, so the talks must not curtail them.

Whatever the outcome in Paris, the immediate impact on manufacturers, will probably appear limited. However, the long-term impact could be cumulative.

Industry is already governed by strict regulatory and fiscal frameworks under the EU and UK’s climate targets which run until 2030 and 2050 respectively, and they are embracing the challenge this presents.

Manufacturing Plant iStock_000073999221_Large
Provisional figures for 2015 suggest the UK’s emissions are now some 36% below 1990 levels – with a target of 50% by 2025.

Provisional figures for 2015 suggest the UK’s emissions are now some 36% below 1990 levels – with a target of 50% by 2025.

Other countries’ commitments vary considerably, so ensuring British industry can compete will remain a constant challenge for the UK negotiations.

We know that those negotiations are shifting away from the top-down target approach that applies to the most developed countries, but will instead encompass individual emission reduction pledges.

Despite this, aggregate global emissions are likely to continue rising as countries continue to develop.

China and India for example, two of the world’s top emitters, will see their emissions continue to rise, despite coming from a lower emissions per capita base.

By comparison, the UK’s emissions are small, but there is an argument that the more developed world should bear responsibility for legacy emissions, and the UK is likely to carry a proportion of that burden.

light bulb with plant
One thing is certain, the Paris talks alone will not fix climate change.

Therefore, there is a possibility the impact of these talks could be felt more keenly by British industry and we will be watching closely.

One thing is certain, the Paris talks alone will not fix climate change, but convening these nations and holding these discussions will I hope ultimately yield positive results.

They should be viewed as building blocks towards finding a global solution to a global problem, rather than as a barrier to growth and a burden to business.

Remember this is just the start, a renewed opportunity for innovation and technological advancement – a chance for British industry to shine.