UK at risk of manufacturer exodus without global emissions deal, says EEF

EXCLUSIVE: Large UK manufacturers could be forced to move their operations overseas if countries cannot agree a unilateral cap on emissions at the UN climate change conference in Paris.

That’s the view of Susanne Baker, senior climate and environment policy adviser at the manufacturers’ organisation EEF. Speaking exclusively to edie, Baker said that a global agreement would have a “truly profound effect” on British manufacturers. 

“At the moment we are competing under regulations – which other countries don’t have – which needs to be overcome if we are to be globally competitive,” she said. “For industries that rely on trade and have heavy energy use as part of their manufacturing process, the only way to meet targets in future [without a global agreement] could be to shift manufacturing overseas.”

“A level playing field is what we’re after.”

Potential relocations – known as off-shoring – would go against a recent trend which saw one in six manufacturers return production to the UK in the past three years. 

Sector deals

Ahead of the crucial climate talks in December, Baker is also calling for international agreements, whereby sectors such as the steel industry – which uses a vast amount energy in the manufacturing process – work together to split the cost of finding new low-emissions processes.

“For steel, the amount of money involved in pilots for alternative technologies is huge, and we think the best way to tackle that is on a global basis,” she said. “However, we recognise that it’s a tough ask, and maybe that’s something that will follow after Paris 2015.”

On a national basis, the EEF is one of a number of organisations calling for the next Government to establish an Office for Resource Management, with a specific paper about the issue being launched on 12 March. Earlier this week, the Carbon Trust and Innovate UK were among those calling for a national remanufacturing Centre of Excellence to support the rapidly-growing industry.

“The way we see it, that office would join up thinking on resources across different departments, producing better data and forecasting, and encouraging innovation on a national level,” said Baker.

Such a body already exists in manufacturing powerhouses such as the US, China and Germany, and the UK is in danger of being left behind, according to some experts. An Office for Resource Management would also encourage remanufacturing which, according to Baker, reduces operational energy use, chemical use, water use and material inputs.


With the General Election just around the corner, Baker is also calling for the next Government to focus on ‘competitive decarbonisation’ – support to allow companies to decarbonise whilst also remaining internationally competitive.

The coalition is already working on decarbonisation roadmaps for a number of manufacturing sectors such as steel, cement and glass amongst others. Baker sees these roadmaps as a huge step forward, but she felt that more could be done.

“The energy sector had huge support in decarbonising and we think that key manufacturing sectors, because of the emisisons involved in their actual processes, need that same level of innovation support,” she concluded.

Susanne Baker at Sustainability Live 2015

With manufacturing exposed to resource security and supply chain risk like no other sector, Susanne Baker will feature among the expert speakers at the brand new high-level conference at Sustainability Live 2015

The session, titled Risk and resilience in manufacturing, will discuss how manufacturers are managing and mitigating risk to ensure business continuity and ultimately operational resilience. 

View the full agenda for Sustainability Live 2015 and register to attend for free here

Brad Allen

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