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.
The Aldersgate Group has signed a letter to the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barosso, calling for draft legislation for a structural reform of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) to be brought forward by the end of the year. The letter was signed by 53 businesses, investors and associations, who believe that a clear carbon price signal and long-term visibility are essential to drive investment and growth.
A group of investors responsible for over a trillion (£) of investment worldwide has written to the Chancellor on the day of his speech to the Conservative Party Conference calling for a decarbonisation target to be included in the Energy Bill. They argue that the lack of a target inhibits investment decisions and negatively impacts the UK’s ability to attract the capital needed to update its ageing infrastructure.
Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors, who signed the letter said: "We are increasingly factoring climate change risks into the decisions we make, but the confusion over medium-term energy policy is a significant impediment".
Andrew Raingold, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, which co-ordinated the letter with UKSIF, said: “The Chancellor’s lack of support for a decarbonisation target in the Energy Bill is completely out of kilter with mainstream business and investor opinion. Such a target would provide certainty to investors, energy generators and their supply chains, giving a much-needed investment boost to the UK economy."
The Aldersgate Group is investigating how to resolve the complexity and lack of transparency in the UK energy market.
Progressive businesses are leading the way in tackling climate change and many are investing in low carbon energy to lower their carbon footprint. To do so, they frequently pay a premium for "green tariffs" or on-site renewables. But some reporting frameworks (like the CRC) ask businesses to report low carbon electricity to their stakeholders as "grid average", while others (the Climate Change Levy) recognise the purchase as zero carbon. This creates confusion and blocks clear communication of power purchasing decisions to the Board and shareholders.
The Aldersgate Group proposes that a solution would be trusted labelling of purchased electricity. Click here to see an example of an electricity label.
The survey covers your electricity purchasing decisions. It should take around 10 minutes to complete the priority questions. All those who contribute will be able to be kept up to date with the project's progress.
Speaking at the joint Government-CBI Industrial Strategy Conference at Warwick University, Aldersgate Group Chairman, Peter Young, set out how the Industrial Strategy must strengthen and develop UK-based supply chains so that more value is captured domestically.
On a panel with BIS Minister Michael Fallon, he said: "We must take the opportunity to re-invent the supply chains of both traditional and new sectors to drive growth which is decoupled from the negative externalities of past industrial revolutions. Businesses which are energy efficient and operate with low virgin resource intensity will thrive in a resource-constrained world and have a competitive edge on those that do not."
"Government must maintain a commitment long term to the various industrial strategies underpinned by clear and smooth delivery; as for example in energy policy to give business the clarity and timing to invest in future low carbon markets. The sector approach can allow both government and business to develop solutions in emerging markets with a mix of policy, investment and co-ordinated procurement to create UK supply chains which can boost jobs, productivity and exports."
In an essay for Business Green, Andrew Raingold, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, argues that the trend towards "New Environmentalism" will only gain mass appeal if we ditch the "Environmentalism". He contends that new narratives are needed that have much wider appeal to the general public than traditional "green growth" economic frames and that empower their target audiences. At its heart, this is about a "heroic nation in a struggle for future prosperity" rather than a green "flavour enhancer" that has been largely marginalised in the national debate about growth.
Drawing on the success of the Occupy Movement in shifting the economic debate away from an obsession with public debt, Andrew argues that "we need an economy with purpose that works strategically to make Britain truly 'great' and deliver rising prosperity to its citizens... Short-term fixes and decimal changes in GDP growth will not be sufficient to get us there."
The article is part of a series of essays for a cleaner future which includes contributions from MPs, business leaders, the EU Environment Commissioner and the UK Climate Change Minister.
The Aldersgate Group welcomes the wide acceptance of the work of the business-led Ecosystems Markets Task Force (EMTF) set out in the Government’s response published on 5th September. But while the Government has favoured the vast majority of the recommendations, the actions described could fall well short of delivering the contribution to growth and business opportunity that ambitious implementation of the EMTF's carefully crafted suggestions would make.
Peter Young, Chairman of the Aldersgate Group and a member of the EMTF said: “The business opportunities highlighted by the EMTF will not be realised if Government is not prepared to make them tangible and secure for investment in new nature based markets. For example, it is vital that the current consultation on biodiversity offsetting does not result in a voluntary scheme which, the published Impact Assessment shows, will deliver absolutely nothing for growth. It would be a massive missed opportunity which has been estimated to be worth £450 million over the next decade. I am pleased that there will be the opportunity to scrutinise progress on all 22 recommendations next spring.”
The Aldersgate Group is collaborating with Anglia Ruskin University in a new project to map the world’s resources. This will investigate the effect of resource constraints on short-term GDP and seek to provide clear information to policymakers on a range of scenarios in order to close the time-lag between the short-term agenda of governments and the long-term vision of current resource models.
Andrew Raingold, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, said: "The Aldersgate Group are delighted to partner with Anglia Ruskin University to gain a greater insight into the current interaction between resources and the economy. The scarcity and security of key resources are a material risk for many of our business members and country specific analysis will be vital for prudent policy making in a rapidly changing world."