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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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.

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Breaking into the Low Carbon Economyhttps://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.

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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?

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.”

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What does a sustainable city look like?

Sustainability West Midlands logoA couple of weeks ago I attended ‘Voices from the future 2020: how are we housed?’, an event organised by Sustainability West Midlands.

This is the first event in their ‘Voices from the future 2020’ series which develop themes from the report A low carbon vision for the West Midlands in 2020. The aim of this series is to stimulate thinking amongst decision makers in the West Midlands of the positive future we can have, and how to get there.

The main presentation, delivered by Stellan Fryxell, partner of Tenborn Architects in Stockholm, showed a great example of what a sustainable city looks like.

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Building a low carbon country

Ed Miliband MP

Ed Miliband MP

The transition to a low-carbon economy will be one of the defining issues of the 21st century. This plan sets out a route-map for the UK’s transition from here to 2020.

Ed Miliband MP, 15 July 2009

Ed Miliband, Secretary of State of Energy and Climate Change, yesterday launched  a national strategy for climate and energy.

The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan is the government’s plan for how the UK will meet the cut in emissions set out in the budget of 34% on 1990 levels by 2020.

The government has placed transforming the country into a cleaner, greener and more prosperous place at the heart of its new economic plans. This document is their way of ensuring that the UK is ready to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.

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