The debate about climate change is still strong and prominent, and the ways we deal with it are discussed on a regular basis. Organisations need to overcome certain barriers more efficiently and focus on driving change within the working environment, influencing central government to take more actions and avoid a ‘climate summit abject failure’ such as Copenhagen.
Main barriers to climate change action
Organisations do not automatically realise that sustainability is an investment in innovative ways that business, incorporating sustainable practice, can yield economic, ethical and environmental benefits for the company.
Procrastination becomes a potential barrier when it comes to transition to a low carbon economy. Currently, there are a lot of industry commentators stating their concern about the delays in policy and framework implementation. Initiatives and drives such as the Green Investment Bank will help stimulate the economy and reduce carbon emissions. However, if we hold off too long in implementing it, it will result in the loss of private investment.
What central government should do?
The new coalition government has a raft of policies and initiatives that will help comply with the binding commitments they have made when it comes to carbon emissions abatement. However, the rate at which they continue to yield an axe low carbon programmes, which have seen cuts of £85 million, is counter-intuitive. It may well be that the currently deficit was unsustainable and required action, but the development of these technologies are exactly the measures that will drive the economy in the long term.
The current UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Chris Huhne, has recently stated that commercial organisations will drive the demand for low carbon technology like renewable energy technologies. However, the uptake of these measures can be stimulated by initiatives such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment and central government’s obligation to reduce energy consumption by 10%. These are good examples of energy policy that will drive energy consumption reduction.
If the UK government is lacking in one area, I would suggest that addressing the existing building stock in the UK represents its biggest challenge, because in excess of 90% of the UK buildings that will exist in 2050 (when the UK had to have cut its annual emissions by 80% from the 1990 level) have already been built. More measures and schemes for retrofitting would enable greater savings in carbon emissions and reduce the affects of climate change.
One way of achieving the sorts of things discussed above is through sustainability benchmarking. The Environment Agency launched the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme in April 2010 – forming the central policy to reduce CO2 emissions in the UK (see Evironment Agency: CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme). The ultimate aim of the scheme is to regulate large private and public sector organisations by creating an incentive scheme to reduce energy usage through monitoring. The responsibility to reduce emissions will lie with the organisation and success rates will be rewarded in monetary terms. However, failures to cut emissions will result in penalties being incurred.
As organisations have the responsibility for cutting their emissions, a method for tracking changes will be essential. There is assistance in the form of sustainability benchmarking (see CADmeleon) that will result in emission reduction strategies and will over time track and monitor organisations’ carbon footprint.
So how will this be tackled?
A first step towards sustainability benchmarking is Energy Efficiency Software, as this focuses on an organisation’s built environment. Many carbon reduction gains can be obtained within an organisation’s infrastructure and effective monitoring of a company’s performance can inform where essential reduction in emissions can be made. Importantly, the next step is the ability to benchmark to develop a sustainability strategy.
Organisations, which will be required to track CO2 emissions, could benefit greatly from using such software. However, there are several things to consider if an organisation wishes to ensure that it benefits from the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme. Look for software that assists with model design and management towards CRC Energy Efficiency. The software should also enable benchmarking and forecasting to maximise results. Other things to consider that will benefit organisations will be the ability to analyse reduction in carbon emissions, together with retrofit recommendations to existing buildings that can also be compared with alternative models to reduce carbon footprint.
Essentially, for people responsible for an organisation’s estate, a method of tracking carbon emissions will be critical but more so, practical methods of reducing CO2 will be paramount. Both private sector and public sector bodies’ results will be positioned in league tables based on performance to illustrate effective cuts in emissions compared with other organisations. So, there really are a number of advantages for organisations to optimise the use of sustainability benchmarking through effective choice of energy efficiency software.
Firstly and most importantly, ensure that operational costs will be reduced through an effective strategy that reduces energy expenditure. It will also be important to develop sustainability strategies that increase the organisation’s position in the league tables when compared to other similar organisations. As there is a mandatory aspect to the scheme, a key feature will be trouble-free data collection for the reporting requirement of the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.
One thing is certain, initial outlay must result in significant reductions in CO2 for organisations to benefit from the scheme. The government is encouraging, and will continue to encourage, behavioural changes within organisations to reduce greenhouse gases; with a target of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050, companies will have to adhere to the CRC scheme – making sure steps are taken to make this adjustment as trouble free as possible.
Jimmy Markham is a specialist consultant in sustainability benchmarking with extensive experience in consulting for reducing carbon emissions and energy efficiency for large businesses.