Claire Perry: Business collaboration crucial to avoid ‘huge drag’ of Brexit

EXCLUSIVE: Energy Minister Claire Perry has directly addressed the sustainable business community's concerns about the UK's impending departure from the EU, reaffirming the Government's commitment to collaborate effectively with corporates to deliver a green economy in a post-Brexit world.

Fresh off the stage from delivering her address at the Sustainability Leaders Forum today (5 February), Perry told edie of the crucial importance of public-private collaboration to address low-carbon challenges over the coming years.

“This is about partnership,” she said. “I don’t think any one group, whether it be Government, businesses or civil society, are going to solve this alone. The reason I came [to the Sustsinability Leaders Forum] was because I wanted to reach out and make the conversation happen about the partnership and what we need to do together.”

On Brexit, the Minister used her speech at the Forum to assure sustainability professionals that she and her colleagues would do “everything we can” to avoid a no-deal, which has been heavily opposed by large sections of the green business community thus far.

“Brexit is a huge drag on the corporate world,” Perry added. “Risk and uncertainty are never good for corporate leaders. This is why we have to get a deal as soon as possible and, be in no doubt, I think no deal would not be a happy outcome for the UK and we will do everything we can to avoid that.

“I urge [sustainability professionals] to think about the fact that this is a two- or three-year conversation about our relationship with the EU.

“What we are trying to solve is a 20-year relationship with the planet. We have got to go through our business plans, think through that uncertainty and consider the actions we are going to take to solve the problem in the upcoming decades.”

Green GB

Perry’s appearance at the Sustainability Leaders Forum comes less than five months after the Government teamed up with edie’s Mission Possible campaign to launch the inaugural Green GB Week, a dedicated week of business action to drive clean growth in the UK.

Speaking to edie today, the Minister commended the 70+ businesses that made a range of sustainability commitments through the edie Mission Possible Pledge Wall, encouraging others to follow the lead of their peers in the year ahead.

“I would like to thank edie for their work on Green GB Week, which was the first one,” Perry said. “Some of the actions we saw their were pledges on carbon footprints, pledges from the financial sector on sustainable investment.”

Emissions reductions

Alongside Green GB Week, which Perry confirmed would take place again this Autumn, the Minister said one of her biggest hopes for the next year was for the UK to successfully bid to host the UN’s COP26 climate talks. “That would be a really moment for us because we are very ambitious and what we need to do is galvanise the rest of the world to become equally as ambitious,” she said.

The Government is currently seeking advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on the feasibility for the UK to set a so-called net-zero target for emissions by 2050. The need for ambitious political action was illustrated in the IPCC’s recent report which raised concerns about the world’s ability to achieve a 1.5C future.

When asked by edie about the net-zero target and the possibility of limiting warming to 1.5C, Perry said: “What I genuinely believe is that, with the right level of commitment and working, it is possible, but I also believe we are going to have think creatively about what happens if we ‘overshoot’.

“It is very easy for politicians to make empty promises and then 10 years later they are gone, maybe even sooner in some cases. We need to set out a really detailed action plan.

“We can always go back to carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies that are actually net-removers of CO2. We do want to get to 1.5C and if we do have to overshoot a bit and come back then so be it, but I don’t want to lose track of 1.5C as our ultimate destination.”

George Ogleby

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