Aldersgate Group has released a new report launching its An Economy That Works initiative. Published a year before the next general election, the report frames the key characteristics of a smart, low carbon and resource efficient economy that would enable the UK to lead the global race in the long term.
Andrew Raingold, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, has described the report as “a wake up call for politicians from all parties” and an outline of “a growth strategy that is resilient to systemic risk and creates prosperity by delivering solutions to major global challenges”.
The report states, “We believe we are on the verge of a new industrial revolution. The race to create and sell solutions that meet global 21st century needs is well under way. The good news for the UK is that we are in a strong position to lead in many areas and are already reaping the rewards. The danger is that we fall behind in areas where we currently have comparative advantage.”
More details on the initiative can be viewed at AnEconomyThatWorks.org.
Defra has announced that Aldersgate Group Chairman, Peter Young, will preside over a review panel to help shape England’s environmental legislation as part of their Smarter Environmental Regulation Review (SERR). Joining his review panel is AG member Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s Terry A’Hearn.
Defra has found that the current framework “evolved in a piecemeal way” and being “fragmented, overlapping, inconsistent and complex”. They are building on the first phase of SERR to consider the scope to reform environmental legislation. The panel aims to propose a new long-term direction and framework for environmental legislation as well as actions for the next 5-10 years. They are set to report to Ministers in late 2014.
To read the terms of reference for Phase 2 of SERR, click here.
Speaking at an Aldersgate Group event, Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, argued that "our long-term prosperity and wellbeing relies on recognising the real value of nature."
The Secretary of State noted that momentum is building in the natural capital movement and argued that the Government had made "solid progress" delivering on the recommendations of the the Ecosystem Markets Task Force (EMTF).
Sir Ian Cheshire, Group Chief Executive of Kingfisher and EMTF Chair, also speaking at the event, argued: “we have to go further and faster…The Government’s heart is in the right place. The challenge now is to push through in some of the areas where the politics is perceived to be difficult.”
Andrew Raingold, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, has written to the Times newspaper, arguing that while the UK may be part of a leading group of nations which are taking policy action on climate change, there is no evidence to support claims by manufacturers that they risk forcing jobs overseas by making energy too expensive.
He cites new research by the London School of Economics which demonstrates that medium industrial energy users in the UK pay lower green taxes on their electricity bills than the European Union average. These taxes account for around 8 per cent of total electricity costs in the UK, compared to 23 per cent in the EU.
Andrew Raingold says "this must be taken into account as the Government reviews its carbon commitments. In truth, the UK’s leadership on climate change enjoys widespread support from business".
Speaking at Resource Event, the first major conference for circular economy, Aldersgate Group Director Steve Wallace asserted that it’s time to act to move businesses towards circularity.
Wallace, addressing the drivers for such a shift, said: “The linear economy was designed for a world with much less people and much less demand for resources. It is clear that this isn’t the case now. We need to change to a circular economy and one of the barriers to change is pure inertia built into current systems. The REBus project is a collaboration with WRAP as our lead partner. It is an opportunity to get out of the theory and into the practice and find what really works.
“There’s been much effort in the recent decades building deliberate obsolescence into our systems. We need to move away from that."
Leading businesses with a combined turnover of nearly £200 billion have written to the FT, warning that climate change is due to make UK flooding more frequent.
Signatories to the letter (see adjacent), which was co-ordinated by the Aldersgate Group, are Allianz, Anglian Water, Atkins, Aviva, Interface, Johnson Matthey, Kingfisher, Lloyds Banking Group, Mitie, Navigators and Swiss Re. The letter calls for prompt cross party political action to address the causes of climate change. While flood adaptation measures are critical, leadership is needed from all political parties to address the causes of climate change. Bold action will maximise investment and innovation to deliver resilience and future economic competitiveness.
Andrew Raingold, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group said: "These floods were caused by the worst winter downpour in 250 years and the clean up bill is already on course to cost £1 billion. But adapting to the changing climate without addressing the root causes is like dishing out painkillers when we need major surgery. Political parties must come together to show leadership beyond the parliamentary cycle."
Read the FT article about this letter (£) here.
The Prime Minister has supported the call from The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, Aldersgate Group and E3G for ambitious initiatives on green growth as the UK implements commitments from the EU-China summit.
The organisations sent a letter in November 2013 setting out the critical opportunity to align European and Chinese interests on the green economy, and formulate a new approach to the EU-China relationship which maximises mutual opportunities and better manages trade tensions.
The PM recognised their incredibly useful work with Government departments to raise the issues and opportunities represented by liberalisation of green sectors and noted that all comments outlined in the letter were taken on board in preparation for the EU-China Summit. He advised that these are reflected in the resulting EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Co-operation.
Oliver Dudok Van Heel, Director at Aldersgate Group, told Guardian Sustainable Business that recent extreme weather events and increased political assertiveness provided an opportunity to mobilise businesses to step up climate change leadership.
Pointing to estimates of a £14bn hit to the UK economy from the recent flooding, he said: "What I am hoping for is a reversal of the post Copenhagen gloom, which led to a lack of political and business leadership. The floods are the evidence we need that the problems we face are current and real and will get worse."
Andrew Raingold, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, has said that a range of pressures threatens to split society as the older generation thrives at the expense of the young.
Speaking at Your Green Future to over 350 school pupils representing more than half the secondary schools in Gloucestershire, he said that uncontrolled public debt, youth unemployment, rising inequality, falling living standards, resource constraints and climate change risks "mortgaging the future of the younger generation". He said it was vital that students ensured their voice is heard to help steer our politicians to better adapt to underlying global trends and grasp the economic opportunities.
Following the keynote speech, the Aldersgate Group ran a series of workshops to engage the pupils to create their vision for a thriving and successful UK economy.
Today the European Commission has published the white paper which sets out recommendations for EU climate and energy targets for 2030. The EU has already committed to a GHG reduction of 80-95% by 2050 and the year 2030 represents the halfway point. The paper recommends 40% GHG reductions, supported by an EU-wide 27% target for renewable energy but has delayed setting a target for energy efficiency.
Peter Young, Chairman of the Aldersgate Group said: "The Aldersgate Group is very disappointed by the lack of ambition shown by the European Commission today. The UK Government has had the foresight to argue in favour of a 50% emissions reduction target, which would create jobs, save public money on healthcare and galvanise the rest of the world into taking ambitious action on climate change.
"The EC's decision to ignore the UK's recommendation is deeply short-sighted and dispiriting; a 40% target effectively locks out the possibility of a two degree temperature rise and puts our low carbon sector on an uncompetitive trajectory. This puts the brakes on growth in a sector that has been growing at nearly 4% a year. The progressive businesses, organisations and individuals that comprise our membership will be lending their support to our Government to ensure that this set-back does not become entrenched in EU policy."
Speaking at an Aldersgate Group reception, Climate Change Minister Greg Barker has downplayed fears the recent review of "green levies" will trigger a widespread rollback of environmental policies that could erode investor confidence in the low carbon economy.
Barker was speaking on progressive Conservatism, which he jokingly explained was "about more than just gay marriage and wind farms". However, he admitted that parts of the Conservative Party's modernising agenda had been sidelined, to make way for austerity policies designed to help reduce the country's deficit.
He stated that the party should now seek to take a more confident and radical approach that supports low carbon and innovative start-ups in the run-up to the 2015 election.
Andrew Raingold, Executive Director at the Aldersgate Group, writing in Guardian Sustainable Business, argues that a muddled energy strategy is confusing businesses and undermining the transition to a more secure, low-carbon future. In their attempt to drive bills down, politicians are forcing bills up, leading to an own goal of "Blockbuster" proportions.
Peter Young, Chairman of the Aldersgate Group, has written to the Prime Minister setting out business’ concern of the recent politicisation of UK energy policy. He says that mixed messages from Government are creating “risk, ambiguity and mistrust”.
Peter Young warned that: “The Government is scoring a spectacular own goal as the jumbled energy policy debate increases today the very costs that Government is seeking to reduce, and increases the costs for business tomorrow by not delivering an efficient, less fossil-reliant energy supply. The very real danger is that we shoot ourselves in the foot and fail to deliver an affordable, secure and low carbon energy mix.”
For further information, see Roger Harrabin analysis on the BBC website, citing the letter and, "warning that in their attempt to drive bills down, politicians may be forcing bills up." Also see coverage in The Mirror.
In an interview for leading carpet manufacturer Interface, Andrew Raingold, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, said that we need a political and economic agenda that puts the long-term interests of citizens at its heart. This must be built on "a new mindset" that encapsulates how we can prosper in a very different world; "a heroic nation in a struggle for future prosperity".
The Aldersgate Group have written to both David Cameron and José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, to urge the EU to propose an ambitious set of concrete initiatives on green growth at the EU-China Summit.
In collaboration with E3G and EU CLG, the joint letters state that the Summit represents a critical opportunity to align European and Chinese interests on the green economy, and formulate a new approach to the EU-China relationship which maximises mutual opportunities and better manages trade tensions.
Further integration of European and Chinese markets would deliver immediate and large business opportunities for European firms. China will spend $8 trillion on urbanisation and over $1 trillion on power systems to 2020. The majority of this investment will need to be clean, efficient and low carbon. The letter sets out four priorities to help create a "Green Growth Area" between the EU and China.
Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, has warmly welcomed a letter sent by the Aldersgate Group, calling for a meaningful decarbonisation target to be included in the Energy Bill in 2014. His letter states: "I am genuinely grateful for your letter and was impressed by the significant investor numbers and names who are clearly supportive of an ambitious approach to tackling climate change."
Whilst recognising "that we need to decarbonise our power sector significantly", Mr Davey insisted that "the Government is taking powers in the Energy Bill to set a target range for electricity sector decarbonisation for 2030." The Aldersgate Group has criticised the Government's approach to the decarbonisation target which is unduly weak, and coordinated a letter with UK SIF arguing that the Energy Bill must create the obligation to include a decarbonisation target in 2014, to be implemented by 2030. The letter was signed by investors with over £1 trillion assets under management worldwide and sent to the Chancellor in September 2013.
The Environmental Audit Committee has published its report into biodiversity offsetting in England (click here). Drawing on multiple submissions of oral and written evidence, including from the Aldersgate Group (click here to read), the report is cautiously in favour of biodiversity offsetting providing the correct measures and safeguards are implemented. The Committee insists that biodiversity offsetting must not be allowed to give developers a "carte blanche to concrete".
Ian Dickie, Director of the Aldersgate Group and author of the Group's submission, said: "Biodiversity offsetting can be an appropriate tool to help tackle conservation objectives, providing it ensures existing levels of protection and is mandatory. We would warn that understanding of biodiversity offsetting is currently at a low level, which makes it vital that the Government does not rush this process and takes due time to design an effective system."
The Aldersgate Group has responded to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)'s consultation on biodiversity offsetting.
The Group's response finds that the most important goal for this area is biodiversity protection and enhancement, which makes offsetting an appropriate tool to help with wildlife conservation objectives in England, providing it is structured appropriately. The framework must ensure no dilution of existing protection and that the system is robust and mandatory.
The Aldersgate Group has also co-signed a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, calling for offsetting to be mandatory. This letter can be viewed here.
Today the House of Lords missed an historic opportunity to be consistent with the Government’s commitment to being "the greenest government ever" and put growth at the top of the agenda. In a vote on whether to include a firm and foreseeable commitment to decarbonise the power sector by 2030, the peers voted against, leaving business and investors without the clear and cost effective path towards a decarbonised economy, that they have been demanding from the Government.
Peter Young, Chairman of the Aldersgate Group said: "This is a major missed opportunity, not just for UK green businesses which gave us a trade surplus of £5 billion last year, but to global businesses and investors poised to create jobs and contribute to growth here in the UK. The conflict between the Government's green pretensions and its increasing determination to procrastinate whilst relying on high carbon, polluting technologies will send global investors elsewhere and slow sorely needed business growth in the UK. The uncertainty that this Government has caused is already delaying desperately urgent UK investment. Meanwhile, our global competitors are developing tomorrow’s solutions with capital which could have been deployed in the UK to the benefit of our economy, both now and in the long term, when delayed modernisation of our power mix will be more expensive."
The Aldersgate Group has added its support to a letter sent to the Prime Minister, calling on him not to scale back the green levies included in energy bills. The letter argues that the "only sure way" to protect households against rising bills in the long term is through energy efficiency. This is supported by measures such as the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) which targets vulnerable and low income households and "hard to treat" properties. Cancelling this measure would increase the energy bill for these consumers, who are least able to afford it.
To read the full letter, click here.