How we can turn the UN climate change talks into action

By Ken Warner, MD, Energy Renewals

The United Nations 22nd convention on climate change began on Monday 7 November in Marrakech. Known as COP22 (Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), the 11-day conference seeks to maintain the momentum of last year’s Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement saw nations pledge to reduce our carbon footprint and to encourage a worldwide response to climate change.

Sometimes though, for us at grassroots level, both at home and at work, it can be difficult to see how we as individuals fit into this vast, bigger, global picture.

In my view, there is a disconnect between what’s taking place on the global stage, such as the UN convention which has kicked off as I write, and you and me.

Banding about pledges such as keeping the global temperature rise this century below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to put measures in place to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as decreed by the Paris Agreement, all sounds very laudable, but the road we all need to follow if this is to be achieved is by no means clearly signposted. At least not for individual companies and households.

That, I think, is the greatest failing of such conferences. They are in danger of being viewed as something happening at a much higher level, something me as an individual has absolutely no influence and whilst we can shout the UN’s climate change message from the rooftops, the perception is very much that it is so far removed from our everyday lives that it practically passes us by. Since the convention’s message has implications for us all, that would be a huge shame.

Now, I am not on a one man mission to reduce global climate change par se, but I am passionate about energy consumption and its impact on business, particularly the amount of money it costs and the savings which can be made.

Interestingly, COP22 in its opening address highlighted finance as once again being one of the key issues and that’s a crucial point; energy reduction needs to be financially viable and cost effective.

The need for a ‘low carbon economy’ was once again highlighted as the conference opened, but what does that mean for companies in the UK?

So in this context, it’s about how low carbon technologies can both boost the economy with the emergence and growth of a relatively new sector and the savings which can be made from reducing energy consumption. For any business, large or small, or even your average household, the theory is exactly the same. Reduce your energy consumption and your bills are lowered. Plus, your carbon footprint reduces which contributes to the nation’s commitment to combating climate change and ultimately makes a difference to the global temperature helping us keep the environment on track for generations to come.

I honestly believe it all starts and ends with the likes of you and me. But there is definitely a psychological gap between the decisions and commitments made at global climate change conferences such as COP22 and the Paris Agreement and what’s implemented on the ground or what’s expected of you and me.

But, it’s also, in my view, not just the responsibility of government to implement taxes and incentives to encourage us to reduce our energy consumption. There’s no point ascending the soap box to wax lyrical about the impact of climate change, I will leave that to our representatives at COP22 and various pressure groups. However, there’s every reason to talk about reducing costs for business.

This brings us back to one of the cornerstones of this year’s COP22: finance. Reducing our carbon footprint has to be affordable and in our own economic interests. I am not talking about the future of the global economy, I’m talking about the viability of your business and mine and how companies can reduce energy expenditure.

The solution is relatively simply: reduce energy usage and you pay less money to your energy providers. The stumbling block for many businesses is the implementation of a strategy which is straightforward and brings about the desired result.

The way I see it is third parties and utility companies are the bricks in the bridge which are in the process of being built to link global policy and commitments and action on the ground.

The more energy specialist companies highlight the benefits of reducing energy consumption and devise the strategies to make that happen for their clients, the less energy we’ll all be using. We’ll be paying lower bills and that’s good for our bottom line.

I am sure we’ll be hearing much about the UN climate change conference over the coming days, but rather than dismiss it as a complex concept which doesn’t impact our day to day business lives, look at how its principles can be applied to your business. If you don’t have the in-house resource or you think it’s too complicated to implement, call on the specialists who can undertake the legwork so you can enjoy lower energy bills. And you’ll sleep better at night in the knowledge you’re doing your bit for the future of the planet.