MCFly spoke to Todd Holden, Head of Low Carbon Policy and Programmes at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, about low carbon supply chains, steady state economy and how we can influence businesses to act more envronmentally.
Can you tell us a little about your role at the GMCoC and when and why it got setup?
Well the role of low-carbon policy and programming has existed for almost two years now and the main rationale behind it was that the low carbon economy is growing all the time and in terms of its scale it is growing faster in the UK than any where else in the world. At at time when most parts of the economy aren’t growing we want to get behind it. Manchester is doing quite well in terms of developing and getting behind it and so it seemed like a very good time to have a dedicated resource. Not just from a policy point of view but from a practical perspective in terms of helping our members and developing projects.
Do you think that there are ways to have a growing carbon economy without using up more and more finite resources?
I think there is a clear need for us, as we go forward, to de-couple the use of resources and resource/energy-efficiency programmes are a good way of doing that. They have significant implications for the bottom line of businesses and they also reduce their environmental impact. In terms of the wider economy, we can grow in a more sustainable way than we are at the moment so it’s about how we adopt those best practices and how we change the way we consume, and how we move from a consumer-led society to one which is more service-focused where we don’t own as much stuff, so we don’t throw away as much stuff so that’s the big move we need to make… When you have population growth and a growing pressure on finite resources and rising costs, the only way we will be able to afford the lifestyles we have now is to go towards services.
What do you think about the concept of a Steady State Economy?
The Sustainable Development Commission did a really interesting report called ‘prosperity without growth’ which was looking at growth, issues around GDP, social wellbeing and social values. I think the challenge around steady-state is that it is almost impossible for a single geographical location to do on its own without facing the economic penalties for doing it and the problem with that is that it has social consequences. I think the idea that there is even a small part of the economy that is not growing is really difficult to achieve in reality without a lot of social inequality. That’s not to say that’s isn’t possible or desirable – it’s just very difficult to achieve right now from where we are.
I understand the chamber of commerce is looking to develop low carbon supply chains. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Yes, we’re developing a low carbon framework. We recognise that one of the barriers in terms of accessing support is that companies don’t necessarily know what they want or if they do, they don’t know if they support that they are getting is reliable. If you were a businesses thinking about generating some of your own electricity, you would quite easily find people who say you need a PV system or you need a wind turbine. What you wouldn’t find is somebody will say that actually PV isn’t appropriate and what you need is this – there’s no independent source of information.
So the idea of these of these frameworks is to collate a list with all the providers from everything from insulation of buildings to retrofitting to getting your boilers and other technologies. So it’s about giving people confidence about the providers, that they are legitimate and that they have controls in place and the final part of the process is getting people who will fit the technologies in situ. So hopefully that will be up and running in the next 6-8 weeks.
How can councils and people influence businesses and help encourage environmental policies?
One way to influence businesses is through regulation and tax breaks which is what national government does. Another way to influence businesses is through demand. The local authorities have quite substantial buying powers so the use of public sector money is a very powerful mechanism. Keeping the money within GM and making it work harder for the region is probably one of the big ways of influencing businesses. Also if you want people to follow then you need to get your own house in order pretty quickly. That ability to act as an exemplar whether that is in your travel policy or your energy, you need to have your own house in order before you talk to others about taking it up.
As individuals we can also influence our employers to get involved in things and take up opportunities to save energy. Also if individuals see something they don’t like they should speak to their MPs and councillors – talking to these elected members to raise your concerns is a really good way to taking action and we’ve found that it tends to be quite effective.
The full transcript of the interview is on our website under the interview tab.