Saturday, 20 February 2010

Business and climate change

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has had bitter criticism levelled at it over a couple of pages in its last 900 page report in 2007. Yet in spite of the deniers glee at the apparent handful of mistakes, the evidence is overwhelming that the world’s climate is changing and not for the better.

Figure 1.1

IPCC AR4 Synthesis Report, Fig 1-1

The coming of the industrial revolution and the corresponding rapidly escalating carbon emissions especially in the last 40 years or so, have skewed our climate.

IPCC AR4 Synthesis Report, Fig 2-1

In the UK, the Met Office states:-

How our climate has changed
  •          Central England temperatures have increased by 1 °C since the 1970s.
  •          Total summer rainfall has decreased in most parts of the UK.
  •          Sea-surface temperature around the UK has risen by about 0.7 °C over the past three    decades.
  •          The UK has experienced nine of the 10 warmest years on record since 1990.
  •          Sea levels around the UK have risen 10 cm since 1900.

The UK Government has set a target of 80% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Perhaps though it should update the Department of Energy and Climate Change website, which still lists 10 facts under the bold headline of ACT on Copenhagen (think its a bit late). The DECC does have a good links page.

So, what does the Government want business to do? How seriously does business take climate change? I accept that ‘business’ is a hugely diverse term for everything from someone working for a few hours a week through to a billion pound multinational corporation. However, here is a taster.

The ACT on CO2 Partnerships with Business is a bit anaemic in allowing some minor business contributions being associated and publicised with the government quango. Yes, it is important to give credit where credit is due and something is better than nothing, but CarQuake advising that “Car Quake recommends considering fuel efficiency when buying a new car” warrants a mention on the site?

The CBI has its own micro site to promote carbon reduction for businesses with a clear steer by headlining the savings in financial costs. It must be complimented though for simple straightforward steps to calculate your carbon footprint to allow the measurement to be monitored and reduced. By keeping it simple it encourages an initial engagement with the concept that hopefully will lead to greater curiosity in the future.

Likewise, the Government backed Business link has a constructive and helpful set of guides and opportunities to climate change. Business Link are promoting the opportunities in low carbon transport, renewable energy, nuclear energy, manufacturing, environmental and financial services. The proof of course is in the pudding to see whether business actually finds these useful but on first inspection they look practical and workable. It highlights the British Standard PAS2050 with lots of useful connections to the Carbon Trust website and Crede website for those serious about reducing carbon emissions.

Some trade associations have been at the forefront of promoting carbon reduction such as Intellect and the Food and Drink Federation. Others have yet to even engage with the concept.

The Federation of Master Builders must be congratulated on their greener builder campaign and determination to transform Britain’s housing stock.

The Institute of Directors whilst listing some policy papers on its website gives a perfunctory overview, with a sniffy account of energy efficiency. It is a disappointing assistance in encouraging businesses to see climate change as a major issue by the captains of industry.

There are some ‘niche’ business responses to climate change. How about the lowering business lighting costs website? Or Alliance calling on recycling CO2 in aircon units of cars.  Good luck to each of these small campaigns and business opportunities. They are moving in the right direction. However, after the failure of Copenhagen, sceptics and agnostic business have been emboldened to ignore the problem or even criticise current policies.

As the Met Office states:-

How can I be sure?
Isn’t the climate always changing?
Yes. There is natural variability in the Earth’s climate but the current climate change is very unusual as it’s not exclusively part of a natural cycle.
Natural factors include volcanic eruptions, aerosols and phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña (which cause warming and cooling of the Pacific Ocean surface).
Natural climate variations can lead to periods with little or no warming, both globally and regionally, and other periods with very rapid warming. However, there is an underlying trend of warming that is almost certainly caused by man’s activities.

And if you want to see a regional breakdown of the possible (if not probable) effects of climate change check out the Met office’s guide

It is clear that until a Government introduces seriously costly carbon emission penalties (in whatever form) businesses will coast along paying general lip service to it. We await the outcome of the general election and whether the new government (whoever wins) tackles climate change with a new gusto.

1 comment:

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