Oct 21 Stuart Singleton-White

When the government dithers business leads.

Posted by: Stuart Singleton-White
Tagged in: Sustainability , Politics , osborne , Climate , Business

Today sees another report confirming a rise in global mean surface temperatures.  It is yet another report completely unable to disprove the impact that humans are having on that temperature rise (natural fluctuations accepted).  Yet our government dithers. Worse, the recent speech by George Osborne, addressing the Tory faithful, and the subsequent about face by his junior energy ministers, shows that not only are elements of this Coalition Government beginning to see the need to take action as being too expense, many are now openly hostile to any action on climate change and the requisite planned transition to a low carbon economy that must follow.  Ideology trumping evidence once more.

This week that dithering has continued.  We have been subjected to a spate of confusing announcements from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).  The announcement of the cancellation of the only remaining carbon capture and storage (CCS) project, and a curates egg of an announcement on renewable subsidies – ripping the heart out of the emerging solar industry (thus threatening thousands of local jobs), while maintaining support for marine renewables, being two such examples.  And then we have the rumoured forth coming cuts in the Feed in Tariffs programme dealing a further blow to our solar industry.   Feed in Tariffs have simply been too popular and the Treasury doesn’t like them.  Of course we know that much of this dithering isn’t dithering at all.  It’s throwing a sop to the right wing media and Tory backbenchers who have focused on green taxes as being the cause of our high fuel bills.  Another myth and another example of ideology trumping evidence.

Fortunately business isn’t fooled by such irresponsible gimmicks and political posturing.  They know that climate change is a real issue.  An issue that isn’t for tomorrow but must be addressed today.  They are showing the type of leadership, in both policy and practice, that is so lacking from our political leaders.  Here are just three examples.

With only six weeks before the UN circus arrives in Durban, South Africa, for the next round of climate talks, the 2C Challenge has issued a communiqué signed by more than 200 of the world’s leading businesses.  The communiqué “calls on governments to break the deadlock in the international climate change negotiations and take the necessary action at a national level.” Are you listening Messrs’ Cameron, Osborne and Clegg?  Many of those companies are taking real and practical steps to reduce their own carbon emissions and footprint.

But it is not only large businesses that are showing leadership.  Many of our medium and small businesses are also working hard, and frankly need more government support.

The Commercial Group is leading the way is sustainability.  Through many innovative programmes, involving its entire staff and many of its customers, it has achieved some remarkable results. While seeing a 41 per cent growth in business it has reduced its operating carbon by 75 per cent and the waste it sends to landfill by 93 per cent.

Reading Transport, running buses in and around Reading, now has hybrid buses making up a third of its fleet.  This is delivering a 40 per cent reduction in carbon emission for each hybrid bus they have running on Reading’s roads.  These are new high quality buses providing things like free wifi, more leg room and a smoother ride.  Not surprising then to see their passenger numbers rising, even in these difficult economic times.

Perhaps if government is as pro-business as it claims, it should ditch its rhetoric about cutting regulation and start understanding that strong leadership on climate change and clear incentives to move to a low carbon business model is what is needed.


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