Climate change: CBI calls for tougher action on carbon emissions

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Britain’s biggest business group the CBI, this week, joined forces with former US vice president and environmentalist, Al Gore, to call for tougher action to cut global carbon emissions so as to unleash the business opportunities of going green.

At an event on Tuesday (Sept 22), co-hosted by the CBI and environmental think-tank the Green Alliance ahead of crucial UN climate talks in Paris in December, Gore made an impassioned speech about climate change, asking a packed audience of business people: “Will our children ask, why didn’t you act? Or [will they] ask, how did you find the moral courage to rise up and change?”

“Turbo-charge” green business opportunities

Meanwhile, CBI director-general John Cridland spoke of how a global climate deal in Paris would “turbo-charge” the business opportunities of the green economy – already worth over £120 billion a year in sales to the UK economy.

He said: “We want to see negotiators heading back to Charles De Gaulle airport with three ‘wins’ in their back pocket.

“First, a long-term foundation for reducing emissions, with agreement on how to ratchet up ambition on a regular basis.

“Second, a commitment to driving forward carbon pricing around the world. Whilst a truly global carbon market might not be realistic in the short-term, it must remain our long-term ambition. Paris must support this.

“And third, a solution for making finance and innovation more accessible.”

Gore: UK cuts to green incentives “puzzling”

But while Cridland said he believed a positive outcome from Paris looked hopeful, both he and Gore warned the UK Government was in danger of losing its leadership position on climate change, while putting jobs and investment in the UK’s flourishing green economy at risk through its recent actions to cut green incentives.

“From the roll-back of renewables to the mixed messages on energy efficiency, these changes send a worrying signal about the UK as a place for low carbon investment,” said Cridland. “Moreover, this seemingly weakened commitment risks impacting our standing on the global stage, at the exact moment we need to stand up and be counted.”

Gore said “he was puzzled” by the UK Government’s recent decisions to cancel green incentives such as the zero carbon homes policy, the Green Deal and subsidies for solar and wind farms.

“The UK’s historic legacy of leadership on the most important moral issues faced by humanity, including the climate crisis, is long and has been recognised with respect by the community of nations,” said Gore. “It is time for the UK Government to honour and live up to that legacy, and return to its global leadership position, domestically and abroad, by supporting an ambitious international agreement in Paris that unleashes the power of the private sector to create a global clean energy economy.”

Risks of inaction

Cridland warned that the risks of inaction on climate change to businesses “could exceed four and a half trillion pounds by the end of the century”. He pointed to ASDA, which estimates that 95 per cent of its supply chain could be at risk from changing weather patterns and increased extreme events – which are both accelerated by climate change – and flooding in Thailand, which has already stopped global technology companies in the US from trading.

The 2015 Paris Climate Conference will take place from November 30 until December 11 2015.

Read John Cridland’s full speech on the CBI website.

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