Squaring the Fracking vs Clean Growth circle
As many commentators have pointed out, the irony needle went off the dial this week when the UK Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, Claire Perry, went to the Climate Change Committee with a request for advice on a zero carbon policy path, yet approved the start of fracking for shale gas in Lancashire. I believe Perry is genuinely committed to clean growth, but she makes one critical error. For a sustainable economy we must do two things:
- Build green industries, and;
- Destroy brown industries.
It is that creative destruction which really drives the agenda forward as only then will the green economy supplant the unsustainable one. Unfortunately, psychologically, it is easy to try new things, but much more difficult to break old habits. We’ve seen many examples of this with the current Government, bumping up subsidies to the fading UK offshore oil and gas industry AND subsidising renewables. There has been some under-the-radar creative destruction, most notably the Carbon Floor Price which has quietly dismantled the UK’s coal power industry.
This isn’t a party political point: you can see such cognitive dissonance in other political parties and indeed organisations. If your product is intrinsically ecologically damaging, no amount of waste minimisation or energy efficiency is going to make up for that. I’ve seen few examples such as Interface deleting a dozen profitable lines of carpet because the formation required brominated flame retardants. That decision created a ‘burning platform’ for new greener products to fill the gap in the product portfolio.
I find the most powerful tool to promote the creative destruction mindset is collaborative backcasting. By getting decision makers to create a future sustainable vision and step backwards to the present day, working out what needs to start and stop happening at each stage drives the message home.
Perry’s pro-fracking argument is we still need gas in a low carbon economy; backcasting with some expert input would provide a more objective view of just how much. I suspect that if the Government wants a zero growth path, the answer will be ‘not a lot’.