16 November 2015 | By Estelle Brachlianoff Community, Opinion

COP21: It's in our hands

UK business can play an important role in preventing climate change. We must start making the most of the tools we have. 

This month saw climate scientists announce that global average temperatures broke through the 1°C barrier for the first time, implying we are already halfway towards the 2°C threshold predicted to result in the most devastating consequences of climate change. And this warming is on top of high levels of air pollution in our cities, which has harmful effects on human health, welfare and our natural environment.

Climate change is a major challenge for our global society and there is a growing urgency to address how we tackle global greenhouse gas emissions. But this isn’t a future pipedream – we have the power in our hands today.

At Veolia, we believe the resources sector can make a realistic 10 per cent contribution to the 2027 UK carbon reduction shortfall by saving 20 million tonnes through the decarbonisation of energy and the circular economy.

With regard to decarbonisation, if we want to phase out the use of fossil fuels in our power plants we need replacements which can deliver energy efficiency and energy security. Biomass is the cheapest green energy with great potential in the UK. Also by implementing decentralised district energy, heating and cooling we can become more self-sufficient and control long-term cost.

Equally it makes economic sense to go circular by giving materials a second, third or fourth life in a closed loop – and saving raw materials by avoiding putting plastic in landfills, for example. Research has found that the circular economy could contribute £29bn to UK GDP and 175,000 jobs. 

We’ve helped customers by offering them a way to use less resources, including materials, water, energy and overall carbon to manufacture the same output. Two years ago we changed our own business model to put the onus on low carbon solutions. And across our operations we save as much as carbon dioxide as we emit, meaning we are carbon neutral.

We therefore believe that UK business can play an important role in preventing climate change as opposed to contributing towards it.

Let’s stop waiting for the big disruption as we could be waiting a long time. Let’s start by looking at the tools we have already and making the most out of them.

Climate change is a major challenge for our global society. If we are to successfully cap global warming at 2°C this needs to be at the top of the agenda in every boardroom across the world. We need to change how we control carbon and make sustainable business practice “the new normal”.