Lord Bourne: Business leaders must galvanise governments ahead of Paris

Politicians and negotiators involved in the Paris Climate Summit "ought to feel the pressure from businesses" to achieve a global climate deal, the Under Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has said.

Speaking at the Business for the Environment (B4E) Climate Summit in London, Lord Nick Bourne insisted “there is a feeling in the air” ahead of the crucial climate talks in December, but businesses must “keep the pressure up” to secure an internationally-binding agreement to keep global warming below two degrees.

But Bourne’s speech was countered by business leaders at the event, who said the Conservative Government’s retrospective green policy changes are increasing the cost of capital and impacting investment in low-carbon technologies.  

Case for action

Bourne said: “Businesses have a key part to play – we need your innovation, drive and enterprise to build a low-carbon global economy with lower emissions, green jobs and more sustainable growth.

“It is business that understands the case for action. We need businesses calling for governments to set the framework to create the rules and provide the certainty needed for long-term investment.

“For our part, this Government – with the commitments set out by David Cameron, Amber Rudd, myself and our Department – will do everything in our power to see that we succeed in Paris.”

With less than 80 days left before the climate talks, 56 countries – representing over 60% of global emissions – have brought forward their intended, nationally-determined contributions towards a climate deal. Bourne admitted that there is still a lot of work to be done to get other nations on-board, but remains confident that a binding agreement will be reached.

“In the run up to Paris, there has been a wave of action from smart businesses that have weighed up the evidence, assessed the risk and determined that climate action makes good business sense,” he added.

“Indeed, both economic security and business security go hand-in-hand with climate security. So action on climate change isn’t a business add-on, it’s a business necessity. And it is already happening – countries, businesses, cities and other organisations are increasingly taking action and all the big players recognise that a deal is needed.”

Tory policy

Following Bourne on stage was Nick Molho, executive director of business coalition the Aldersgate Group. Molho was quick to draw attention to the UK Government’s own recent domestic announcements that seem to counteract Bourne’s global green ambition – namely the scrapping of the zero-carbon homes standard and the withdrawal of financial support for the UK’s wind and solar sectors.

“It was very encouraging to hear Lord Bourne talking about the importance of the low-carbon sector both in the UK and globally,” Molho said. “There’s a lot businesses can do but there does come a point when policy solidity and policy support is needed – that’s especially the case when you are dealing with new, low-carbon technologies that have a high up-front capital cost.

“We mustn’t underestimate the damage that retrospective policy changes can have on investors in the low-carbon economy across the piece. They can worry the investor community, increase the cost of capital and delay investments altogether.”

Molho’s comments were supported by a report released today by Scottish Renewables which revealed that recent announcements from Whitehall are having a “significant impact on investor” confidence and their ability to lend to green energy developers.

Looking forward, the UK Government has some important green policy decisions to make, including the development of a new Levy Control Framework for supporting clean energy projects beyond 2020; finalising a new carbon budget for the late 2020s; and conducting a consultation into energy efficiency tax schemes.

On the latter, another report released today by the manufacturers’ organisation EEF urges the Government to use the review of carbon taxes to cut costs for energy users, reduce red-tape, and deliver significant reductions in industrial emissions.

Luke Nicholls

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