In last week's Queen's Speech, Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a commitment to legally binding carbon emissions targets for the UK - a 60% cut by 2050. Leaving aside the arguments over whether 60% is 'enough' or what "legally binding" actually means in practice, getting anywhere close to this target will require a huge shift in policy - particularly given the lack of action to date.
Up until now the Government has relied on providing support to businesses and consumers to reduce their carbon emissions through quangos such as The Carbon Trust, Envirowise, The Energy Savings Trust and WRAP. However the type of support provided by these organisations, while worthwhile, is unlikely to deliver 60% reductions in any one company. Therefore, if the Government is serious about this target, we can expect more and bigger sticks to back up these carrots, for example:
- The Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) is coming in 2009.
- We can expect tougher Building Regulations to push new houses up the levels set out by the Code for Sustainable Homes.
- I wouldn't be surprised if the Climate Change Levy is replaced by a tougher Carbon Tax and that obligations are made on waste heat to encourage its use in district heating.
To avoid being clobbered by such sticks, industry and businesses need to start planning a low carbon future now. Reducing energy expenditure is never a bad idea.
Measuring the carbon footprint of a business is an essential first step before reduction plans can be developed. At Terra Infirma we follow footprinting with the backcasting approach to develop low carbon future scenarios before tracing reduction pathways for a business to follow. This gives more radical solutions cutting right across the business, rather than simple quick fixes.
But, whichever way a company wishes to address the problem, it will pay to have a headstart.