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.

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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?

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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.

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?

Low carbon economy to face climate change

Earth viewed from spaceThe UK Climate Projections (UKCP09) were published last week. These projections deliver climate information forecasts for the UK and its regions. The purpose of the projections is to provide relevant evidence that can help society and the environment cope with climate change.

The key findings confirm that climate change is a real and challenging issue to face:

“All areas of the UK get warmer, and the warming is greater in summer than in winter. There is little change in the amount of precipitation (rain, hail, snow etc) that falls annually, but it is likely that more of it will fall in the winter, with drier summers, for much of the UK. Sea levels rise, and are greater in the south of the UK than the north.”

The Department of Energy and Climate Change and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will lead a programme of action to tackle climate change based on the following five fronts:

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