There have been five general elections in the UK since the IPCC published its first assessment report in 1990 and warned the world of the potential dangers of man-made climate change.

Governments on both sides of the political spectrum have made promises and although progress has been made, not least in the form of the Climate Change Act, the fact that globally, CO2 concentrations have continued to rise from 350 parts per million (ppm) in 1990 to 400ppm today, illustrates that there is clearly still much to do. 

It’s perhaps no surprise that environmental issues are not front and centre of this election campaign, but there are clear indicators that far from the sitting on the periphery, sustainability is now an issue the electorate is concerned about.

Rhetoric to reality

In a recent survey, it was revealed that nearly nine in 10 people agree that climate change is happening.  Unprompted, it was named as the fourth major threat to the UK behind immigration, the economy and health. Scepticism about the causes of climate change also seems to be waning as the same survey found that 84% of people attributed climate change either somewhat or entirely to human activity.

The surge in Green Party membership, which now makes it the third largest party in the UK, ahead of both the Liberal Democrats and UKIP, is something all parties will no doubt be watching with interest, but sustainability issues have still to make their way into the manifestos of the main political parties.  Even energy policy, perhaps the most fundamental of all ‘green’ issues has had scant attention.

Regardless of the issues the parties choose to campaign on, the real test of any Government is what they can achieve while in power. We’ve been tempted by visions of the ‘green economy’ for many years. New waves of investment and innovation; zero carbon new builds; community-scale energy solutions and green jobs.

Triple bottom line

Making that vision a reality will mean that Government, of whatever hue, has to make a strong and unwavering commitment to translating the rhetoric of the manifesto into the reality of effective and concerted action, whether in the form of investment, taxation or regulation. It will also mean taking a leadership position on the global stage to ensure that we achieve real progress at the UN climate negotiations in Paris in the autumn.

As an Institute representing all those working in corporate responsibility and sustainability in the UK, we hope that Government continues to support businesses as they move towards that vision of a greener economy. 

The business case was made and proved many years ago – there is sound economic as well as environmental and social sense in the triple bottom line approach.  But all businesses need the security to make long-term investments and a legislative framework that supports them to make positive change – a fact that is as true for those in the vanguard of the move towards more responsible and sustainable business as it is for those who still have some way yet to go.

Claudine Blamey at Sustainability Live 2015

Claudine Blamey will be speaking at edie’s brand new high-level Conference as part of Sustainability Live 2015 in April. In a session titled ‘What is driving the agenda?’, Blamey will discuss the social, geopolitical and legislative landscape, what business needs from our next Government, and the investor perspective.

Find out more and register to attend Sustainability Live 2015 for FREE here. 

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