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Green is not a luxury

Businesses should not view being green as a burden during the economic downturn, but as an opportunity, says the CBI.

Ben Verwaayen, chair of the CBI climate change board and chief executive of Alcatel-Lucent, told the CBI’s Climate Change Summit that, “Being green, especially in these times, is not a luxury. It is a critical issue and an important opportunity for business and for creative thinking.

“Where the great depression was solved by building roads and bridges, what this economic crisis needs is green innovation in both energy and applications.”

CBI director-general, Richard Lambert, added that the global economic crisis was not a reason for inaction on climate change and called on the Government to show leadership by forging ahead with its ambitious emissions reduction targets and delivering a framework for investment. Failure to do so, he said, would mean missing an opportunity to cut carbon emissions and secure the UK’s energy supply.

“We must not let the global economic crisis become an excuse for inaction on climate change. Now more than ever, we need to secure a binding EU climate change deal, or the opportunity to make the transition to a low-carbon economy will slip through our fingers,” said Lambert.

“The Government’s commitment to reducing emissions by 80 percent by 2050 is very ambitious and it has made a promising start with the creation of the new Department for Energy and Climate Change and the Planning Act. But we now need the Government to transform its ambition into action.

“If the Government can deliver the right framework for investment then UK businesses can take the initiative by developing and exploiting new green technologies to improve efficiency and cut costs.”

Some businesses are already forging ahead with green initiatives. Andrew Duff, CEO of RWE npower, explained that regardless of difficult economic conditions, carbon dioxide reduction remains a major driver of RWE npower’s business plans: “We have ambitions to spend over ten billion pounds over the next decade on cleaner energy infrastructure and we're currently on track to reduce our carbon dioxide intensity by a third by 2015 over 2000 levels.”

He added that his company was also geared up to respond to further growth in demand from its customers for carbon saving products and services.

Kim Jones president and MD of Sun Microsystems in the UK, said that the current economic climate was acting as a catalyst for Sun to continue its climate change efforts: “The primary reason for this is efficiency, by focusing our efforts on climate change we are making our business more cost effective.

“We continue to invest in innovation, creating products that help meet the global demand for a cleaner, safer, more sustainable and cost effective environment. We're also focusing on reducing emissions from buildings, cutting down on travel, looking at other areas of our business operations to limit water and paper consumption as well as improving our recycling initiatives.”

Peter Redfern, group chief executive of Taylor Wimpey, said, “As a housebuilder, the area in which we can have the greatest impact is in building energy efficient and environmentally sound homes. This approach makes commercial sense for our business and we remain committed to it.”

Colin Smith, director of engineering and technology at Rolls-Royce, added, "The response to the challenge of climate change requires technology applied at an industrial scale through companies with a global reach such as Rolls-Royce."

The CBI has launched a Climate Change Tracker, which rates the Government’s progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It looks at how the Government has fared in four key areas: energy, buildings, transport and industry. But it concludes that the Government’s long-term ambition must be matched with short-term action if its greenhouse emissions targets are to be met.

Download the Climate Change Tracker here.