The coronavirus pandemic has had, and continues to have, a devastating effect on lives and our way of life.
In parallel to this, the urgency to act on climate change could not be greater. We’ve witnessed the bushfires in Australia and rising temperatures across the globe. The UK experienced its warmest Spring this year and England had its driest May for 124 years. The UK government was right to make a stronger commitment to climate action by setting a net-zero emissions target for 2050.
Reaching this goal will be extremely challenging, particularly in the post-pandemic climate. It will require business and government to work together in partnership, and it will require improving energy efficiency as a fundamental priority.
The benefits of energy efficiency for business
CBI member, DLL, a global financial solutions partner, has recently published a whitepaper on how businesses, particularly SMEs, can benefit from improved energy efficiency. The report poses the thought that “the real question for UK businesses looking to go green isn’t: how can we afford to? It’s: how can we afford not to?”
The whitepaper comments that there is increasing pressure on UK businesses to make their operations greener. According to the Ethical Consumer Markets Report 2018, more UK consumers than ever are trying to improve the sustainability of their purchases. With younger generations increasingly focused on the sustainability of their choices, we can expect this trend to increase. The same effect is felt throughout the supply chain. The HSBC Global Navigator survey 2017 found that almost one third of global businesses are “looking to make changes to their supply chains related to sustainability”.
What can the government do?
Energy efficiency offers many immediate and long-term benefits that will help tackle the economic downturn resulting from the pandemic. The first is jobs: it has been estimated that an energy efficiency programme could support over 150,000 jobs across all regions of the UK. Additionally, a 20% improvement on energy efficiency by 2030 could deliver up to £6bn in cost savings. Energy efficiency pays off, and the government has a unique opportunity to use it to tackle the twin threats of the pandemic and climate change.
In our introduction to the DLL whitepaper, the CBI outlines clear policy interventions that could be taken now to kick-start this process. One immediate action the government could do is designate energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority, which could lead to further and long-lasting investment in energy efficiency. The government should set out its plan for delivering the full £9.2bn energy efficiency pledge in its manifesto.
In addition, more action is needed to target the energy efficiency of SMEs. There is no one size fits all approach for SMEs but, in order for there to be improvements, key issues such as information; expertise and capacity building; access to finance and a clear and long-term policy framework must be addressed.
As the UK embarks on its journey to a net-zero future, business and government must work together to properly establish what this journey will entail: and we can and should start with energy efficiency.
Download Energy efficiency: getting down to business to hear our policy recommendations, alongside the business case for energy efficiency; and the key questions you as a business leader can ask in order to start on the right track.