In the second of three features interviewing representatives from the UK’s leading think-tanks, Alex Blackburne speaks to Reg Platt, from the Institute for Public Policy Research, about sustainability.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) is the leading progressive think-tank in the UK, favouring social, political, and economic reform or changes. Devised and established in 1988 by Lord Hollick, former owner of the Daily and Sunday Express, and Lord Eatwell, a leading economist, it “[produces] rigorous research and innovative policy ideas for a fair, democratic and sustainable world”.
“Our role is to advocate policies that help to accelerate the transition into a low-carbon economy, at a pace which is appropriate for the rate at which we need to be reducing emissions to avoid calamitous changes from climate change”, Reg Platt, research fellow for climate change and energy at the IPPR, says with regards to sustainability.
“We are interested in doing that in as fair a way as possible, the most-cost efficient way as possible, and also in the way that helps us to bring the country back into an era of prosperity from the current economic malaise that we’re experiencing.”
Unlike his predecessor in this series, Philip Booth of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), Platt and the IPPR are strongly behind government intervention when it comes to climate change and sustainability policies.
Until recently in the UK, the Government did have a dedicated quango that dealt with sustainable development. It was called the Sustainable Development Commission but was scrapped in March this year.
Now, the work load has been transferred to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which has introduced a Sustainable Development in Government section, “to ensure all people throughout the world are able to satisfy their basic needs, while making sure future generations can enjoy the same quality of life”.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a scientific intergovernmental body. It provides global comprehensive assessments of current scientific, technical and socio-economic information on the risk of climate change caused by human activity. It explores potential environmental and socio-economic consequences, and possible options for adapting to these consequences or mitigating the effects.
“We wholeheartedly support the position of the IPCC, and the UK Government, and the vast majority of scientists in the world who say that climate change is caused by man-made industrial activities and the greenhouse gases that we emit through those”, says Platt. “We’re fully on board that the fundamental principles of the science are no longer disputed.”
That’s a start. One of the biggest problems in the fight against climate change is converting people to the balance of probability that human activity has greatly accelerated the effects on our planet and it’s us, and only us, who can do anything about it.
The IPPR, according to Platt, is focusing its current attention on innovation, in a bid to drive action.
“We think we need to be putting money into research and development, into universities, and into building our engineering capacities so we can develop the technologies that will help drive us into a new era of society, which will help grow our economy into a low-carbon one. We’re very much pro-growth.”
Platt continues, saying that whilst growth is the main priority, it’s imperative that it happens in the right areas.
“You need growth in those industries that are driving society towards a lower-emitting economy”, he says.
“To begin with, in terms of emissions reduction, but when it comes to the wider sustainability agenda, we need to grow those industries that help to recycle resources and outputs back into the economy again.”
As well as the need for Government and companies to grow sustainably, Platt also outlined the importance for individuals to take responsibility for their actions, but admitted that too many people live for now, as opposed for the future.
“We know that people are much more likely to value their quality of life in the present, so arguing to them that they should be changing their behaviour now and restricting their quality of life so that they have a better quality of life 20 or 30 years down the line when climate change impacts are occurring, is not going to hold water with most people.”
Platt added that the Government has a big role to play in propelling this group into action.
“The Government needs to be creating an ambitious policy framework that puts the UK ahead of other countries in the world, so we are moving into the new, low-carbon industries much quicker than our competitors, and so we’re stealing that competitive advantage on them.
“That means we need a very stable policy framework so we can get the investment in and so that companies and corporates feel they can invest the money in developing new products and services that fit into that agenda.”
Proposed rapid reforms to the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) will halve the tariff and do not create the ‘stable policy framework’. This risks wrecking the nascent solar industry in the UK.
It’s clear that the IPPR are very much in favour of a balance of governmental intervention and personal responsibility. As Britain attempts to tackle the effects of global warming, though, this certainly isn’t a bad thing.
“There are very big limitations to what individuals can do”, explained Platt. “We therefore need a very strong government framework, but underpinning all of it, we need everyone to play their part, including companies in the public sector as well.”
If you would like to find out more about investing in sustainable companies or would like to know how you, as an individual, can help to make a difference, ask your financial adviser, if you have one, or complete our form and we’ll connect you with a specialist ethical adviser.
How Going Green Can Save A Company Money
What is going green?
Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.
The first step in going green
There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.
Making needed changes within the company
After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.
Reducing the common paper waste
Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.
Make money by spreading the word
Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.
5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable
Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.
1. Weather stripping
If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.
Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.
Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.
2. Programmable thermostats
Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.
Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!
3. Low-flow water hardware
With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.
Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.
Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.
4. Energy efficient light bulbs
An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.
New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.
5. Installing solar panels
Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.
Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.
From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!
These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.