New Fit for the Future articles published: what’s your vision of a low carbon future?

Fit for the Future: what's your vision of a low carbon future? Join in the debate.

We’ve launched a new website as part of our Fit for the Future project. Earlier this year we asked:

In your view, what would a successful low carbon economy look like and how should the West Midlands transform its economy to meet that vision?

The new website presents five articles given in response, written by contributors working in manufacturing, local government, education, public and voluntary sectors.

We want the articles to stimulate a debate so, this year, we decided to present the articles in an online commentable form. Please do visit the website, have a read and add your comments to the articles.

Continue reading

Efficient use of water – a great opportunity

Blog Action Day 2010 water

Once more the West Midlands Regional Observatory joins Blog Action Day. This is an annual event held every 15 October and unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action. This year’s topic is water.

Our low carbon research has highlighted that the greatest opportunities for moving towards a low carbon economy are related to ‘decarbonising’ the current business processes. In other words, have more efficient processes in place. This can be achieved either through using resources more efficiently (for example water, electricity and raw materials) or by reducing the amount of waste produced.

Businesses in the West Midlands are already taking advantage of these opportunities. Here are a few examples of companies using water more efficiently.

Continue reading

How can small and medium businesses prepare against climate change?

Burst banks of River Severn amid flooding in Worcester

Photo: Worcester bridge by Russell Trow

Climate change has an impact on businesses. Flooding, hot summers, droughts and severe storms and winds can damage business premises and disrupt suppliers and customers.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Business directly impacted by the 2007 floods took an average of 26 weeks to return to normal operating capacity. Some small businesses can take up to two years to recover from a flood – and some do not survive.
  • Rail commuters in Birmingham endured extensive delays on 17 July 2006 as the extreme heat caused railway lines to buckle. Many services from New Street Station in Birmingham had to be cancelled and some passengers had to wait more than two hours.
  • The flooding in July 2007 was caused by a month’s rainfall in 1–2 hours and caused interruptions to electricity and water supplies, and significant disruption to road and rail networks.
  • After the flooding in June and July 2007, insurers received 165,000 claims in the UK, estimated to total £3bn in insured damages. Economic and social costs were far higher, as not all costs to businesses can be insured.

The West Midlands Climate Change Adaptation Partnership knows that it is crucial that businesses understand the consequences of climate change. This is why they released a practical guide explaining how small and medium businesses in the West Midlands can save and make money from climate change (pdf, 357kb).

Planning and being prepared are the way forward as opposed to just reacting whenever disaster hits. This will allow businesses to save money in the long term, continue operations in spite of the weather and identify potential business opportunities.

The guide provides a series of questions that business should consider around:

  • Insurance
  • Premises
  • People
  • Utilities
  • Information technology and security of data
  • Suppliers, logistics and delivery and products
  • Processes, stock and raw materials
  • Agricultural and horticultural rural business
  • Emergency contacts and important documents

The guide also provides examples of opportunities for small businesses, useful tools and contact details of regional support available.

Photo credit: Worcester bridge by Russell Trow.

Job opportunity: SCPnet

The Environment Agency are looking to second a suitable individual for a period of 3-6 months to help strengthen the SCPnet (Sustainable consumption and production network) and secure its long term future.

Continue reading

What’s your vision of a low carbon future?

Most people now agree that the future economy will need to be a low carbon one. But what would a low carbon economy look like? And how should the West Midlands transform its economy to get there?

If you have a view about these questions, we would like to hear from you.

Copies of our book called West Midlands: Fit for the Future?In 2009 the Observatory published a book called West Midlands: Fit for the Future? The aim of the book was to start a debate about the future of the West Midlands economy as it emerges from the recent recession.

We’re now looking to build upon one of the themes that emerged from the original book: opportunities for the West Midlands in a low carbon future.

In exploring the subject we’re inviting contributions from people with a variety of different perspectives on the issue. Whilst we’ve contacted some people directly, we’re also interested in receiving contributions from anyone who feels they have something interesting to say.

Our aim is to stimulate debate, promote discussion and influence policy on the future growth of the low carbon agenda in the West Midlands.

If you would like to contribute to our report, we’re looking for papers of no more than 2,500 words (and we welcome alternative ways of getting your ideas across), reflecting your own ideas in response to this question:

In your view, what would a successful low carbon economy look like and how should the West Midlands transform its economy to meet that vision?

Continue reading

Observatory low carbon team update: June 2010

Black and white illustration representing an environmently friendly economyOpportunities for businesses in the low carbon economy have been the main focus of the team in recent weeks. We’ve also been producing our annual raft of monitoring work looking at all aspects of sustainable development and climate change.

Low carbon economy

Back in March, we published our report into the opportunites for growth into a low carbon economy in the West Midlands.

The research suggested that, in the West Midlands, sectors with prospects for growth into the low carbon economy include automotive & transport equipment, construction and public services amongst others.

The report highlights a number of potential low carbon opportunities. The manufacture of products for low carbon buildings is one, through providing insulation products, technical tiles and ceramics, and prefabricated building elements for construction.

Continue reading

John Polychronakis on opportunities in the low carbon economy for the City Region

On Monday 17th May 2010 the Observatory published a series of reports analysing the opportunities for growth into the low carbon economy in the West Midlands City Region. Each of the local authorities within the City Region had an individual profile produced for them.

John Polychronakis, Chief Executive of Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, gives his reaction to the report and discusses how it will help Dudley MBC develop their local economic assessment:

Watch video on viddler.com | Transcript

How Sustainability West Midlands are using low carbon economy research

Here’s a short video with Dr Simon Slater, Executive Director at Sustainability West Midlands.

Local authority and business leaders in the West Midlands were asking Simon ‘what are the risks and what are the opportunities in the low carbon economy?’

In this video, Simon discusses how working with the Observatory to research and evidence regional growth into a low carbon economy is helping his organisation and partners in the region answer such questions.

(Watch the video on Viddler.com)

Low carbon economy and sustainability – the same thing?

Last week I attended the annual SCPnet conference in the West Midlands. SCPnet stands for Sustainable Consumption and Production network and is a partnership network dedicated to promoting the philosophy of sustainable consumption and production (SCP) at a sub-national level.

I must say that I found the conference very interesting and insightful and the quality of the speakers was outstanding. This conference gave me a great opportunity to reflect on what is sustainable consumption and production, its importance, and how it links to the low carbon work we are doing at the Observatory.

Sustainable consumption and production

‘Securing the Future’, the UK Government sustainable development strategy, states:

‘Increasing prosperity, in the UK and across the world, has allowed many people to enjoy the benefits of goods and services which were once available to just a few. Nevertheless, the environmental impacts from our consumption and production patterns remain severe, and inefficient use of resources is a drag on the UK’s economy and business. We need a major shift to deliver new products and services with lower environmental impacts across their life cycle, while at the same time boosting competitiveness. And we need to build on people’s growing awareness of social and environmental concerns, and the importance of their roles as citizens and consumers.’ (DEFRA (2005) Securing the Future, p.43)

An alternative definition by Constanza (2000) says:

‘Probably the most challenging task facing humanity today is the creation of a shared vision of a sustainable and desirable society, one that can provide permanent prosperity within the biophysical constraints of the real world in a way that is fair and equitable to all of humanity, to other species, and to future generations. This vision does not now exist, although the seeds are there.’

Sustainability and the low carbon economy

So going back to the question in the title, are sustainability and low carbon the same thing? I believe the answer is no.

The West Midlands Regional Observatory recently published the research The Low Carbon Economy in the West Midlands. The research highlights that a low carbon economy is one where businesses deliver products and services while reducing their level of carbon emissions.

In this sense, the low carbon economy is just one element (an import one) of sustainability. In the same way that the environment is much more than only carbon emissions, sustainability is much more than just environmental issues.

Climate change, carbon emissions, environment impacts, social issues, waste, recycling, population growth, lifestyles, supply chain, energy, environment quality and deprivation are just a few examples of topics that have an impact on sustainability.

Also, businesses, government, people and the third sector must all work together. Sustainability is not something it can be delivered by only a few people in isolation.

In 2006 the report I will if you will presented the ‘triangle of change,’ a framework where people, business and government interact in a coordinated effort to move towards a more sustainable society.

If you want to know more about sustainable consumption and production, here are some websites that can help:

We are planning to add more posts about the 2010 SCPnet Conference soon. If you’re interested keep an eye on this blog.

Breaking into the Low Carbon Economyhttp://wmro.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/higher-level-skills-can-help-boost-the-region%e2%80%99s-economic-recovery/

Car breakers and recyclers, along with the construction industry, could benefit significantly from existing and future low carbon legislation according to research from the West Midlands Regional Observatory.

The low carbon agenda is gaining pace as the West Midlands seeks a way out of recession, because of the range of opportunities that it provides.

In a low carbon economy businesses deliver products and services, while reducing their level of carbon emissions. We tend to link the low carbon economy with high-tech industry and high levels of innovation, technology and investment. However, the Observatory’s research has found that the opportunities stretch well beyond hydrogen cells, solar panels, electric cars and science parks. There are a number of opportunities for the rest of the region’s economy.

Continue reading

West Midlands at the heart of European Climate Change Programme

EIT knowledge and innovation communityBusinesses, academics and public agencies in the West Midlands gathered this week to find out how they can benefit from a new €120 million Europe-wide climate change programme.

Climate – Knowledge Innovation Communities (KIC) is a unique programme, from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, which brings together five of Europe’s top universities (including Imperial College and ETH Zurich), 10 leading companies (including CISCO and Shell), and six major European regions including the West Midlands.

Continue reading

What is the low carbon economy?

The low carbon economy has increased its importance in recent years, but do you know what it means?

A low carbon economy is one where businesses deliver their products and services while, at the same time, they reduce their level of carbon emissions.

A question I’m often asked is ‘which are the sectors included in the low carbon economy?’.

However, it is not easy question to answer. The definition shows that the low carbon economy is not a list of sectors, but a distinctive characteristic that crosses over a wide range of sectors. As long as businesses achieve reductions in their carbon emissions, they are part of the low carbon economy.

In this sense, the low carbon economy is much more than just the traditional environmental products and services such as energy generation or electric cars.

The Observatory recently published a report about the Low Carbon Economy in the West Midlands. The research found that:

  • The low carbon economy can deliver opportunities across a wide range of business sectors, not just to those seen as being in the ‘traditionally’ environmental technologies sector.
  • The sectors with clear opportunities in the West Midlands include: Non-​metallic mineral goods; Automotive & transport equipment; Metals & metal products; Construction; Environmental Goods & Services; Food & beverages; Transport, storage & communications; and Public services.
  • Businesses can benefit from the low carbon economy in two ways: diversify into new low carbon products or become more efficient in their current processes (decarbonise).

The West Midlands has an important manufacturing legacy and businesses in this sector are already taking part in the low carbon economy by increasing their efficiency related to processes, resources, utilities and waste.

Evidence supporting this is presented in Measuring Performance – Environment Survey 2009, a report produced by EEF.

The survey asked about environmental issues across manufacturing companies in the UK. The survey identified that businesses are increasingly aware of the benefits to gain by adopting resource efficiency improvements.

Key findings include:

  • Manufacturers are adopting a range of environmental strategies mainly around recycling, reduction of business waste and energy efficiency improvements
  • Manufacturers have reported cost savings from adopting environmental strategies

The low carbon economy can be the vehicle with which the West Midlands can achieve economic growth without compromising our natural environment. Would you like to take part in it?

Making the skills links for Environmental Technology

There has been a fair bit of media interest in the Environmental Technology sector over the past couple of weeks, particularly from the BBC and Radio WM. This was stimulated by our recent Review of Skills in Environmental Technologies (pdf, 476kb).

In the main, the interest has concentrated around how the sector has faired better than wider manufacturing through the recession, and the huge potential for future growth – for example in renewable energy and recycling.

This is good news for the West Midlands, as the industry has the potential to create jobs for Midlanders long in to the future.

But, to capitalise on the sector’s potential, our research (pdf, 476kb) shows that businesses need to be able to access the right people with the right skills; in some cases, very specific skills that are up to date with the latest technology.

We found that Environmental Technology companies are finding it difficult to find people with the right skills, and the report (pdf, 476kb) makes some recommendations on how to overcome the barriers.

Continue reading

Sustainable Cities Index: analysis for the West Midlands

Cover of Sustainable Cities Index 2009

Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton are the three cities from the West Midlands included in the Sustainable Cities Index (pdf, 4.3mb) published recently by Forum for the Future.

This is the third year that the index has been published, which tracks sustainability progress achieved in Britain’s 20 largest cities. The index is designed to give a snapshot of sustainability in each city, aiming to encourage healthy competition, stimulating discussion and suggesting new ways of thinking about cities.

This post provides a short analysis of findings for the West Midlands cities and also highlights the similarities that this work has with our State of the Region dialogue on sustainable communities.

Continue reading

Institution of Civil Engineers launches State of the Nation report

Cover of State of the Nation reportThe Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) today launched its latest State of the Nation report and this year’s theme is ‘Low Carbon Infrastructure’. This report provides an interesting take on the low carbon debate coming from within the engineering industry.

As Paul Jowitt, ICE’s President says in his foreword:

“Many of the largest sources of carbon emissions are currently associated with the construction, operation, maintenance and use of infrastructure in particular in the energy, transport, water and waste sectors. Our inquiry suggests that many of the technologies and practices we need to create significant change in these sectors already exist, but their delivery is constrained by unfavourable investment and delivery conditions.”

Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 30 other followers