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Sustainable innovation is happening, Government should do more

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It’s not long to 2030 when we should abandon fossil fuels. Technology industries are part of the problem, but they potentially have the solutions too – they are the innovators that can develop more sustainable buildings, cleaner travel and greener solutions for everyday life.

The current trends are not clear but the government’s softer policy towards the environment may mean that the UK will miss the Paris goals. The UK is not alone in this failure, the EU is not on track to meet its targets either. It is trying to remove 310 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere by 2030.

Positive signals towards Net Zero

Fortunately there are encouraging signs. The EU is funding research into low-carbon technologies, and while the sums seem high, more would be even better. They are funding research into new  energy sources such as renewables and hydrogen. Universities and manufacturers are making progress too. There is already news about hydrogen-powered flight and work on Turquoise Hydrogen at Cambridge will help to reach a form of hydrogen that is viable for travel and industry.

Most businesses are committing to ESG policies. In particular, they are embracing the carbon reduction part which is probably the easiest part to measure and report on.

Fifty five percent of UK homes now have smart meters, and energy suppliers are helping us to use gas and electricity more efficiently. We could also take inspiration from Germany where the government is legislating to ensure the move away from new fossil fuel heating systems. It wasn’t an easy decision but German homes will need to use 65% renewables and possibly bio-fuels until hydrogen fuels become more feasible to use.

Backing for UK innovators?

The UK has a big intellectual asset: its science, engineering and technology communities and their ingenuity and innovation. Many are already de-carbonising their products and offering greener products and solutions, I am thinking of smart meters, smart buildings, EVs and battery technologies which the whole world will need. Surely there is an opportunity for businesses to invest and export these worldwide?

The UK Government needs to take a lead and push hard to accelerate this work. Their own Climate Change Committee has already delivered a swathe of important recommendations. Now, ministers should commit to the policies to make all this happen and roll them out. There isn’t time to debate these for years or even months.

Here are some of their recommendations plus a few of my own thoughts:

  • Support UK industries to de-carbonise so they can stay competitive with producers that are NOT committed to Net Zero goals.
  • Invest in energy infrastructure to produce, transport and store greener electricity.
  • Provide reliable and efficient public transport and incentives for more walking and cycling.
  • Update planning laws to promote “15 minute” towns and cities, where people’s needs are all available in a local area.
  • Buildings create 17% of the UK’s total emissions. Legislate to ensure that we move away from fossil fuel heating and promote better energy efficiency.
  • To achieve this, we need a better understanding of heat pumps and more trained engineers to supply and install them.
  • Fuel poverty is a real concern so there should be support for sustainable heating in social housing and residential blocks of flats.

Many of us are already making greener lifestyle decisions, the very simple choices that we know will make a difference to the planet and our health. We are already taking fewer flights, walking and cycling more, eating food produced here and consuming less meat.

Have a happy, healthy New Year.