Corporate Climate Change leaders provide poor advice

The United Kingdom Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change is a body sponsored by the Price of Wales and they are concerned with climate change.  They believe that there is an urgent need to establish new and long term strategies for dealing with climate change. They are right. There is such a need. These “leaders” agree that incremental change is not going to work, and that action would benefit business by creating new opportunities so they think we need a cross party consensus on policies to cut emissions.

They have written to the three major party leaders asking for urgent and comprehensive measures to combat climate change. They did not, I believe, write to the Green Party, which is the only party with a clear and viable climate change policy.
The companies that comprised the Corporate Leaders include Tesco, Johnson Matthey, British Airports Authority, Shell, E.on, Kingfisher, Centrica, John Lewis Partnership, and UnileverThe “leaders” suggest some gentle policy tweaking – by way of observations) that might help.
They propose that measures are taken to deliver a robust carbon market with a centralised cap on carbon combined with auctioning carbon credits through what they describe as “the broader economy”. It is a shame that they fail to understand that the cap and trade system will not deliver real carbon emission savings. They need to rethink carbon trading; it is a device that promises cheap carbon savings but delivers none. All carbon savings – which ultimately have to entail the use of renewable energy on a very large scale is going to be much more costly than using fossil fuel.  Whatever bells and whistles you may attach to carbon trading schemes, carbon emissions are only saved by using energy from a benign source and using less energy.
They favour an approach which involves first discovering what renewables and other technologies can do, then demonstrating them and then deploying them. Here (save in respect of carbon capture) they are about ten years out of date. We know what renewables can do and we do not need any more demonstration projects. How many times must we “suck it and see if we like it”? Renewables work but they are more expensive than fossil fuel, and all the demonstrations in the world will not change that until fossil fuel becomes scarcer.
They have suggested that public procurement using a forward purchase system would guarantee future markets in renewables and claim that existing public procurement has led to small changes in product specification. It has not as far as the solar thermal industry is concerned. There has been small public procurement in Phase 2 of the Low Carbon Buildings Programme which has led to lack of competition (on a select few companies have the market) with no product specification changes and in the main most suppliers on Phase 2 supplying the cheapest and most out of date product.
They have pointed out, rightly, that disincentives for householders to install renewable energy creating products must be removed and incentives must be increased. They have got that part of their letter right.
I am not sure how useful it is for companies that themselves are not prepared to rsik their prosperity by actually leading on climate change to lecture the political parties about it. Of course many of these companies could do far more to reduce emissions than they are doing, whether it be by substantially reducing packaging (but sales may be affected) or refusing to exploit Canadian oil tars (but profits may be affected) or by not building new coal powered power stations (but emissions may be affected) or by abandoning plans for a new runway (air traffic may be affected).
Greenpeace has criticised what they describe as the hypocrisy of these “leaders” but I am afraid most companies are in favour of fighting climate change unless it affects their profiuts and most leaders of these very large companies do not want their profits to be affected. They want to address climate change but only if everyone else does, so that they do not have an uneven playing field and do not suffer disadvantage. I understand that.
What riles me is that these “leaders” are not leading on climate change at all. They are prepared to participate in the profits to be garnered from climate change policy, but only as a sure bet; they will not want any degree of risk.
Of course, all of these companies has the ear of Gordon Brown; I am sure that he will take a call from all these Chief Executives and listen to what they say and use their ideas in shaping his climate change policies. That is a shame. The ideas are out of date, poorly thought through and will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
It will take much harder policies than the United Kingdom Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change subscribe to to make any difference, and that is what you would expect. The polluters, having spent a decade in trying to deny human made climate change are now apparently convinced of it and think that the market, in which they participate, is the solution, rather than the problem.

2 Responses

  1. […] Here is the original: Corporate Climate Change leaders provide poor advice […]

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