Nick Hurd: Political will to reach climate commitments needs business support

A "genuine and irresistible" political momentum to reach the targets of the Paris Agreement needs to be supported at local and business levels to drive new innovations to decarbonise struggling sectors, the UK's Climate Change Minister Nick Hurd has claimed.

Speaking to delegates at the C40 Financing Sustainable Cities Forum in London City Hall on Tuesday (4 April), Hurd noted that current commitments to the Paris Agreement would fall short of the 2C limit target, and called on local governments and business communities to work with central governments to overcome clean innovation barriers.

“Let’s be real about the urgency of this,” Hurd said. “However magnificent the Paris Agreement was as an achievement, what has been committed does not add up to 2C let alone 1.5C. We’re going to need higher ambition.

“Leadership needs access to new solutions that are clearly better than the business as usual and deliver more benefits to the citizens. This a huge challenge considering the urgency of the task and this puts huge pressure on our systems on innovation. The leadership that we pin our hopes on needs support in terms of access to technologies and ideas that work for them and means to finance them to make them genuinely competitive.”

Exhaust pipe dreams

Two areas where Hurd felt support should arrive from are local governments and the business community. The climate minister highlighted that working with these communities in the past had helped the UK become more efficient in areas such as transport and energy, but that more work needed to be done.

Transport is one area that could act as a benchmark for this new holistic way of thinking, according to Hurd. He alluded to significant funding streams provided by the Government to help automakers develop electric vehicles (EVs), including the recent £300m electric taxi hub in the midlands, which could create 1,000 jobs in post-Brexit Britain.

Despite positive relationships with the automakers, the UK’s transport sector continues to struggle when it comes to decarbonisation, as admitted by Hurd. Alongside heat, both sectors look set to miss 2020 targets for renewables generation.

Hurd claimed that a more decentralised approach to Government was changing the relationships and conversations between central ministers, mayors and business communities. The Industrial Strategy and the Clean Growth Plan were two areas where business and communities could reach out to Government to recommend solutions to the heat and transport issues, the minister noted.

With the UK’s low-carbon sector employing more than 230,000 people, Hurd proclaimed that decarbonisation was “no longer a pipe dream”, signified by the UK’s six continuous years of decoupling emissions and economic growth, and that now was the time for these relationships to build new technologies to accelerate carbon goals.

“In the UK, we’ve travelled quite a long road over the years, but I think we’ve helped prove something important, which is that clean growth is more than just a pipe dream,” Hurd said. “On that journey our homes have become more efficient, but still not efficient enough, cars have become more efficient, but still not efficient enough.

“We need to bring the private finance in to support change. Come to us at Central Government, tell us the potential you see, tell us what you want to do and what we can do to unblock it and make stuff happen. This is a big shift in how Government thinks. Government isn’t a super, well-oiled machine, but we are working on it and it’s never been more important for our society.”

Hurd has previously insisted that Brexit will give the UK the opportunity to look at the low-carbon transition through a “prism of national interests” that could lead to significant economic growth.

In the context of a decentralised nation, this is already taking shape. Hurd revealed that more than 60 boroughs, towns and cities were now signed up to the UK100, a pledge to transition to 100% clean energy by 2050.

Matt Mace

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