The year in focus
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the environmentalist's annual roundup of what policymakers, regulators and business leaders will be prioritising over the next 12 months
Owen Paterson – secretary of state for environment at Defra
My goal for the year ahead will be to help grow our rural economy and improve the natural environment. The two go hand in hand because a healthy environment is essential to future prosperity.
Defra will help the rural economy unlock its potential. I want to enable the 500,000 businesses in rural England to grow. My department will continue to work closely with the food and farming industries to ensure they are supported.
Of the food we currently import, 22% could be grown, reared and produced in the UK and I want to enable the industry to reduce this figure.
2013 will present a number of challenges and, as a department, we will continue to work with our partners to safeguard against disease, ensuring that plant, tree and animal health remains a priority.
Defra is seen as the fourth emergency service and I want to ensure people can feel safe in their homes by having the right flood defence schemes in place. As a nation, we are fortunate to have some fantastic wildlife and I am keen that the department showcases the best of what this country has to offer to enhance biodiversity and rural tourism.
Paul Wheelhouse – minister for environment and climate change in the Scottish government
The Scottish government is working towards a cleaner, greener Scotland by improving the natural and built environment and protecting it for present and future generations.
2013 is the year of natural Scotland, and over the next 12 months we will showcase the best of the country’s breathtaking scenery and unique natural heritage, and continue to ensure that environmental measures are at the heart of the government’s decision making and budget.
With the full fiscal and economic powers of independence, we could do more to create the best possible conditions for our environment, stimulating our green economy and realising its full potential.
As we work towards that time, we will also continue to press the UK government for more investment in the environment and in jobs, sustainable growth and the green economy.
We also want to see more action and higher levels of ambition across the world in support of a more sustainable future and low-carbon economy. In 2013, we will continue to press world leaders to raise their level of ambition in line with Scotland’s.
Mary Creagh – Labour MP and shadow secretary of state for environment
2013 is shaping up to be a big year for the environment. After another year of government incompetence, we need a renewed focus on the environmental, climatic and economic challenges facing us.
With unprecedented flooding and drought in the past 12 months, meeting the challenges of climate change will remain a priority.
The draft Water Bill has already been plagued by delays and we need to get it back on track with tough targets to reform abstraction licences and promote water efficiency.
The UK economy remains in the doldrums, which is why in 2013 we must win the argument for green growth. After bold pledges in Rio, the government’s greenhouse-gas (GHG) reporting scheme has fallen short. The coalition has chosen to limit mandatory reporting to quoted companies, despite business and green groups calling for a much wider approach.
Is this another sign of the malign influence of a chancellor who sees environmental protection as a barrier to growth? The environment and economy complement one another. As growth flat lines, low-carbon industries have been growing at 5% a year, creating green jobs. Environment policy must provide the framework to give a green boost to growth.
The arrival of ash dieback has put the focus on biodiversity and the health of cherished woodlands. Forests will be in the spotlight in the next 12 months, with the government due to respond to the independent panel report on forestry in January. We will be looking for strong commitments to protect woodlands and the role of the Forestry Commission.
Martin Baxter – executive director of policy at IEMA
Halfway through the coalition’s five-year term, and the environment is shaping up as one of the areas where the two parties in government are becoming ever more polarised.
We’re seeing the policy consequences of this already – exemplified by the decision to delay setting a 2030 electricity decarbonisation target until at least 2016.
Energy efficiency and efforts to reduce total energy consumption are belatedly receiving more serious attention from policymakers. DECC’s new energy efficiency deployment office will spearhead the UK’s implementation of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive, and practitioners are well advised to familiarise themselves with its impact on businesses.
The final stage of the introduction of mandatory GHG reporting for UK companies will be implemented this year with the adoption of enabling regulations and formal guidance, and companies covered by the rules will need to ensure effective GHG data management from the start of the 2013/14 financial year.
Also, regulations implementing a requirement for a directors’ strategic report to disclose long-term environmental risks are due to be implemented by the business department from October 2013.
Work will continue on the revision to ISO 14001, the global environment management systems standard, and IEMA plans a major programme of engagement with members when the draft is published in the spring.
The European Commission’s proposal to amend the Directive on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) will see member states begin to develop their respective positions. Again, IEMA will engage members to help build its vision for EIA.
Gareth Stace – head of climate and environment policy at the EEF
Despite forecasting moderate growth next year, we are under no doubt that environment debates will continue to be shaded by concerns over cost-effectiveness, affordability and growth.
This is positive as it gives us fresh impetus to consider how to take resource efficiency to the next level to enhance competitiveness, create new jobs and potentially shield companies from future resource price shocks.My hope is that this will be complemented and incentivised by discussions and debate on the development of a waste prevention plan for England.
Debate will inevitably focus on the future of the EU emissions trading scheme post 2020. Businesses will need to be convinced that it will provide them with a stable and predictable regulatory framework in which to invest and transform. I expect there will be a continued emphasis on how to streamline regulation and provide a far more effective regulatory interface for companies.
That said, we are under no illusions that there are some massive challenges for this year and new regulations to respond to, such as managing the next tranche of registration under REACH and dealing with potential withdrawals of substances from the market; preparing the ground for a reworking of the UK WEEE (waste electronic and electrical equipment) system; and responding to variations in permit conditions as a result of the transposition of the Industrial Emissions Directive.
Alongside this, we are expecting big changes to be made on air quality as a result of the revision of the National Emissions Ceilings Directive and from the fall out of the European Commission’s resource efficiency roadmap, which looks to have the potential for far-reaching implications for manufacturing.
Paul Leinster – chief executive at the Environment Agency
At the start of 2012 we were confronted by the consequences of two dry winters. In March, there was a drought across large parts of England. Then, from April onwards, record levels of rainfall led to 11 periods of flooding.
We wait with interest to see what the weather in 2013 has in store for us. But we know that saturated ground, full reservoirs and high water tables mean that flood risks are higher than usual for the start of the year.
Despite the current economic situation, the Environment Agency’s latest stock-take of the environmental performance of regulated businesses shows that the overwhelming majority manage their impacts well and that serious pollution incidents are at a record low.
The agency continues to reduce the administrative costs to well-run businesses while ensuring that people and the environment continue to be protected. We are on track to deliver savings to business of £45 million per year from 2015 (against a 2010 baseline). However, there’s no room for complacency because a minority of businesses are still bad neighbours. We are actively working with these operators so that they improve their performance.
In 2013, the Environment Agency will continue to work with companies, local and national government and communities to tackle serious pollution, promote good environmental practice and support economic growth. At the same time, we will be working to protect people and property, and improve the environment.
James Curran – chief executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa)
At the 1992 earth summit in Rio, governments committed to addressing the biggest environmental challenges of the day. By comparison, Rio+20 (held in June last year) failed, largely due to an obsession with the precarious global economy.
Frustratingly, most effort seems to be going into returning our economy to the position that initially created the crash. And there is a distinct lack of the new thinking that characterised the original Rio meeting.
Unexploited fossil fuel reserves are estimated to be worth up to $27 trillion, and this has already been factored into global economic forecasts. But there is a problem. Those fossil reserves are equivalent to a staggering 2,800 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide – five times the limit for avoiding dangerous climate change!
Scotland, by contrast, has the most ambitious climate change legislation in the world, aspirations to be a zero-waste nation and the opportunity to build a new green economy. Sepa is keen to be part of that new reality – and will be working with businesses and communities to realise the multiple benefits that accrue from a high-quality environment.
Peter Young – chair of the Aldersgate Group
From an environmental perspective, 2013 will see us add to the planetary deficit in return for very little reward from short-term growth or global recovery. We are heading for another squandered year, with yet more misplaced faith in old economic models designed for limitless resources, and no concept of the havoc the climate debt will wreak on the next generation.
In the UK, it will be harder to hear words on the core issues of sustainable growth and climate change; even “the green economy” will become an unsavoury phrase for our leaders to utter. This will spur an angrier debate than has been seen in recent years, centred on energy policy, which exemplifies the schizophrenia of an increasingly frayed coalition government.
On the periphery, good work will be done. 2013 could see breakthroughs in valuing natural capital, recognition that halting biodiversity loss is actually a net gain and the start of serious benefits from the green deal. Leading firms will use mandatory reporting to show why caring about CO2 is good for long-term shareholder value.
Outrageously, I predict that we will invest as much in fossil fuels as in renewables. Our international competitiveness, green investment and job creation will suffer. I will ensure the Aldersgate Group’s demand to create a new economy is louder in the ears of the government. We must make our leaders realise that entering the next election with a clear manifesto that articulates sustainable growth is the only credible option for their, as well as our, future.
Matthew Farrow – director of policy at the Environmental Services Association (ESA)
For a start, it would be good to get to the end of 2013 with the same set of waste/resource ministers as we had at the beginning. The endless ministerial merry-go-round does not help either sensible policymaking or the ability of the waste and resources sector to make its case. In addition, I hope that 2013 will see more recognition of the potential for the sector to drive the green growth the UK needs.
One thing that will help is clarifying some key areas of policy uncertainty. I look forward to the judicial review over separate collection finally being resolved and for Defra to publish its long-awaited proposals to implement the ESA’s code of practice for materials recovery facilities.
This year may also give us a sense of just how divergent the waste policy agendas across the UK could end up. Scotland, for example, will be deliberating over what use to make of its new powers over landfill tax.
At the EU level, I think the most significant issue will be the commission making a start on its review of EU waste targets. Given how much of the UK story on waste management in the last 20 years has been driven by EU targets, this is something to pay close attention to.
Jonathan Garrett – director of corporate social responsibility at Jaguar Land Rover
For Jaguar Land Rover, 2013 will be both an exciting and challenging year. Exciting because of its growth plans, the development of new lower CO2 vehicles and the construction, in Wolverhampton, of its “greenest” factory – which will provide the next generation of fuel-efficient engines. The company will also launch its new 2020 sustainability strategy, which will help it deal with these challenges.
Going forward, Jaguar Land Rover will continue to invest in research and development, and further enhance the integration of the sustainability agenda into its strategic decision making. There is much talk about the green economy. This conjures up images of wind turbines and solar power. However, mainstream manufacturing has a crucial role to play in the transition to a greener and more balanced economy with a highly skilled workforce.
The UK automotive industry is one of the success stories. We need to build on this. Greener product development is at the heart of our business – a hybrid Range Rover will be launched later in the year, while an experimental Jaguar XJ_e recently achieved an incredible 112 mpg in tests. For the environment profession as a whole, I see industry grappling with the new concepts of valuing nature, environmental profit and loss, and developing new business models.
Matthew Brown – head of energy and climate change at the CBI
With the right political leadership, 2013 will continue to see green business go from strength to strength – a real powerhouse of the economy. To achieve that, however, EU policymakers must join businesses in lifting their eyes to the horizon, and start to sketch out a carbon policy for 2030.
In the UK, it is imperative that the Energy Bill gets onto the statute books by the end of the year to start the flow of investment, jobs and growth in power generation.
The stakes are high on whether UK policy really starts to support energy efficiency in 2013. The government needs to do all it can to make the green deal work for consumers and to enable business energy efficiency – but we need a considered, coherent framework, not a raft of hasty new measures.
David Fatscher – head of market development at BSI
With 50% of the world’s population now living in cities, the increasing challenges of urbanisation will be ever present in 2013. More specifically, given that half the world’s GDP is generated by the largest 600 cities, authorities need to share best practice in sustainable development to optimise performance and quality of life.
Responding to that need, BSI is providing the UK voice in the development of a new international standard, due to be published in 2013, based on work undertaken by the global city indicators facility, a World Bank initiative.
This new standard will offer a framework for comparability between cities by harmonising the metrics that evaluate the “smartness” of urban infrastructures.
One indicator of the health of a city is the level of GHG emissions and, closer to home, BSI is partnering with the Greater London Authority to develop PAS 2070, an effective measurement tool which will allow consistent consumption-based GHG footprinting at the city level.
City planners are increasingly aware of the need to recognise the impact on biodiversity of specific activities or developments. Assessment is a complex undertaking and a more credible approach is required on how to measure and report on biodiversity. Accordingly, a new British standard on biodiversity management is due shortly.
Cities also need to know that economic performance is measurably interlinked with issues such as the health and aspirations of the community. At present, there is no consensus-based definition of what it means to be a truly “smart city”, but with robust standards under way in 2013, there soon will be.
Anne-Marie Warris – chair of the ISO subcommittee on environment management and advisor at Lloyd’s Register
I have three key beliefs for what is critical in terms of the environment or sustainability in 2013. The first is ecosystems and biodiversity management – critical for our survival, but the concept is too abstract for day-to-day living. We may need to change the language. It is not about the planet surviving, it is about our own survival. And we cannot guarantee either without action.
The second is accountability – a much used word – and is about personal accountability for our use of ecosystems.
Balance is my third. It is about agreeing the balance between the three “Ps” (planet, people, profit), which is used as a description of sustainability.
What is the right balance? What framework do we need to meet all the needs of employees, community, stakeholders and ecosystems in a world with insufficient resources? This is a debate that appears not to be occurring, perhaps because it is too hard – but we need to have it!
Demand for fossil fuels will peak by 2025 if all national net-zero pledges are implemented in full and on time, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecast.
The Green Homes Grant is set to deliver only a fraction of the jobs and improvements intended, leading to calls for more involvement from local authorities in future schemes.
COVID-19 recovery packages have largely focused on protecting, rather than transforming, existing industries, and have been a “lost opportunity” for speeding up the global energy transition.
Half of the world's 40 largest listed oil and gas companies will have to slash their production by at least 50% by the 2030s to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement, new analysis has found.
None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.
The UK’s pipeline for renewable energy projects could mitigate 90% of job losses caused by COVID-19 and help deliver the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. That is according to a recent report from consultancy EY-Parthenon, which outlines how the UK’s £108bn “visible pipeline” of investible renewable energy projects could create 625,000 jobs.
Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.