A road map for change: UK climate goals post COVID-19

EIC outlines the call to action the UK government has received from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to ensure that the road map for economic recovery post COVID-19 aligns with existing environmental targets.

Forging a path

Yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced proposed easing on several lockdown measures and made it clear that an exit strategy from COVID-19 was being developed to prevent further infection and revive the UK economy.

While the lion’s share of Johnson’s speech was devoted to these adjustments, he reiterated that maintaining social distancing would be critical in ensuring their success.

The next steps, beyond decreased restrictions on travel and exercise, will be in allowing non-key workers to return to work if their role was site-restricted but to remain working at home if possible. Thus the first sparks of economic resurrection appeared.

COVID-19 has ushered in one of the greatest economic cooling periods in modern history, in combination with geo-political tensions it has brought the oil industry to its knees and exposed many of the frailties in existing energy infrastructure.

In his speech, Johnson expressed the gravity of COVID-19, describing it as follows:

 

“The most vicious threat this country has faced in my lifetime…. [of a] kind we’ve seen never before in peace or war.”

 

However fears are now circulating that we will see a retreat away from renewable energy sources as both governments and investors move to revitalise that sector, perhaps at the cost of UK climate targets.

 

An opportunity in disguise

The CCC, among others, have stated that there is no reason that the economic recovery plan cannot be inclusive of UK climate goals. 

 

“Recovery means investing in new jobs, cleaner air and improved health. The actions needed to tackle climate change are central to rebuilding our economy. The government must prioritise actions that reduce climate risks and avoid measures that lock-in higher emissions.”

Lord Deben, CCC Chairman

 

Historically, Lord Deben is correct, perhaps the most dramatic green energy success story in recent history is that of the United States. Immediately after the 2008 financial crisis, the U.S. prioritised funding for clean energy which generated 900,000 jobs in a five-year period.

According to a recent insight from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), in excess of 17m jobs could be generated globally by 2030 through similar investment now-effectively doubling that work force.

Additionally, IRENA have calculated that this model could yield a global GDP gain of approximately $98tn by 2050, returning in the range of $3 to $8 on every dollar spent.

 

“Things have changed markedly since the last global economic downturn a decade ago – renewables are now cheaper than the alternatives” 

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit

 

The global picture shows many benefits to leveraging COVID-19 for the purposes of green transition however these gains are logistical as well as financial. As Fatih Birol, head of the IEA, implied, renewables have also proven far more resilient during this crisis:

 

“Only renewables are holding up during the previously unheard-of slump in electricity use…”

Fatih Birol, head of the IEA

 

Upon this rock

The responsibility now falls to the UK government to create and enact policies that reflect its commitment to carbon neutral and to an economy for the future instead of simply offering life support to fossil fuels.

Despite not presenting a comprehensive strategy, the prime minister did comment on the UK’s green trajectory while responding to questions after the announcement. Johnson declared the UK’s resolve in meeting net zero by 2050, pandemic or not, saying “…we know we can do it”.

 

 

Although COP26, this year’s proposed Glasgow climate talks, are unlikely to go ahead, the UK is still considered a global leader in the fight against climate change, however actions taken now will dictate the fortitude of both our economy and reputation in years to come:

 

“The UK now finds itself in a unique position to ramp-up climate action at home and supercharge the international response to climate change abroad…” 

Baroness Brown of Cambridge,CCC Adaptation Committee chair 

 

Thankfully, while the costs of climate inaction are all too apparent, the benefits of a green transition are more and more becoming a matter of consensus, as Richard George of Greenpeace UK states:

“…200 top economists told us that transitioning to a low-carbon economy was the most effective form of economic stimulus… Now the UK government’s climate advisors have reinforced that message… the debate is over.”

The question then becomes how individuals and businesses can contribute to, and take advantage of, this new green trajectory?

No doubt new legislation will be introduced to further incentivise greener business practices, and the Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) has made suggestions along those lines in a strategic document. 

One such suggestion is that the second wave of financial support to UK businesses be conditional on their commitment to climate-friendly policy and practices. 

Leveraging the pandemic in order to pressure businesses into adopting sustainable practices may seem extreme however it is in order to prevent a much greater catastrophe and as such might be viewed as both timely and reasonable.

That being said, legislation and compliance will likely become the government’s major tools in achieving carbon neutral within the industrial and commercial sectors. As such, the value of compliance becomes even more pronounced, particularly given the need to reduce costs during and after a period of low income.

Carbon management then, becomes a vital priority as businesses and management professionals try to anticipate and navigate this possible transition. Not unlike the lockdown itself, social responsibility and personal accountability are at the heart of Carbon management and EIC will develop a bespoke plan for your business that reflects that. 

Combined with in-house compliance and IoT empowered facility management services, EIC can integrate many of the elements of your carbon strategy into a single cohesive framework for the benefit of your shareholders, team members and clients.

 

The green gold rush: CCA extension proposed

EIC explains the government’s proposed extension to the climate change agreements initiative (CCA), benefits of compliance and how we can ensure you qualify.

CCA: How and why

The climate change agreements initiative was established to incentivise the continued and effective implementation of energy efficiency strategies among the most energy-intensive industrial sectors.

icebergs in the sea

CCA encourages businesses to streamline their energy usage by offering a 93% reduction on electricity, and a 78% reduction on other fuels accrued as a result of the climate change levy (CCL).

Since its inception in 2013, approximately 700,000 tonnes of carbon emissions have been prevented each year, with businesses using up to 2.3 TWh less energy or enough to power 140,000 homes.

The need for such legislation becomes painfully obvious when framed in the context of energy wastage, in the City of London alone businesses are losing £35m each year this way according to a Green Alliance think tank report.

Originally, the initiative was due to conclude in March 2023 however Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak announced in the spring budget that there would be a consultation on a possible two-year extension to the initiative.

The show goes on

While 9,000 facilities across the UK are already benefiting from the CCA, this extension is estimated to be worth as much as £300m annually in CCL discounts, for the businesses already taking part in the scheme as well as new beneficiaries that would now be able to apply.

It works by encouraging businesses to make improvements to site energy efficiency over an eight-year period. In return, businesses would receive a discount worth as much as £300m annually on CCL bills.

Given the financial uncertainty that COVID-19 continues to inspire, and cooling attitudes towards sustainable development and practices, the news of an extension is welcome on all fronts.

“Extending the Climate Change Agreement scheme will give businesses greater clarity and security at a time when they need it most. This extension will save businesses money while cutting emissions…”

Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng

The consultation will cover proposals for the addition of a new Target Period, from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2022, an extension of certification for reduced rates of CCL for participants 31 March 2025 and finally, to re-open the scheme, allowing eligible facilities not currently participating to apply to join.

Businesses that had previously missed the opportunity to join the scheme now stand a chance of taking advantage of these savings whilst contributing to a greener economy.

However, it should be noted that the criteria of eligibility for the scheme is not under review, rather the extra time will allow businesses to implement strategies that make them eligible in time for the levy discount to bear fruit.

lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling

The new gold rush

The extension proposed, if approved, presents a significant opportunity to both current beneficiaries and newcomers to the scheme, provided they have the reporting mechanisms in place, to adhere to the scheme.

Businesses that wish to take advantage of this opportunity in future will need to ensure that they are fully compliant with the scheme as soon as possible, in order to reap the most benefit.

EIC’s expert team of carbon consultants and data analysts are dedicated to offering your business a comprehensive CCA service from initial assessments through data analysis to actionable strategy.

SECR: Why use EIC?

A brief look into SECR, why it matters, the deadlines and reasoning behind the legislation and how EIC can combine it with ESOS in an economic package suited to your organization’s needs.

The Nuts and Bolts

The UK’s Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting Policy (SECR), is a piece of government legislation that came into effect April 1st of last year. It seeks to consistently highlight the carbon footprint of companies, whilst encouraging long term strategies that are congruent to UK carbon emissions goals.

To that end, the SECR requires companies to provide a detailed report which includes items such as their carbon emissions and energy efficiency/carbon reduction behaviours implemented to redress their overall carbon footprint.

Established as the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) was ending, last year’s regulations will affect approximately 11,900 companies in the UK, considerably increasing the range of influence that the CRC originally enjoyed.

The scheme affects businesses described as “large organisations” within the Companies House terminology. Therefore businesses which have at least a turnover of £36 million, balance sheet of at least £18 million, or 250 or more employees, will be within this category.

SECR works in cooperation with the pre-existing legislation the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS).

Year 1 – Act Now

Since the SECR came into effect on April 1st 2019, it means that we now sit on the eve of the first regulatory deadline, with the first trench of qualifying businesses financial year ending in March 2020.

For businesses which also qualify for ESOS, the SECR scheme is a useful tool to provide the necessary data sets required for compliance, making the journey smoother.

As such, we felt that the timing was right to remind our readers of the combined ESOS and SECR package that we offer. The fusing of the two services is designed to remove unnecessary stress and inconvenience with the promise of a dedicated Carbon Consultant.

Finally, EIC also offers a 10% discount to any clients that sign up for a 4-year joint service package, our website contains further details on all of our services and we invite you to find out more should they appeal to you.

Time to focus on SECR compliance

The ESOS deadline has now passed and it’s time to focus on a new compliance scheme.

SECR, Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting, was introduced in April 2019 as a framework for energy and carbon reporting. Its aim is to reduce some of the administrative burden of overlapping carbon schemes and to improve visibility of energy and carbon emissions for large UK organisations. Given the timing of its introduction, SECR could also help businesses on their first steps to meet the UK’s 2050 net zero target. Companies in scope of the legislation will need to include their energy use and carbon emissions in their Directors’ Report as part of their annual filing obligations they will also need to report any energy efficiency actions they have taken within each financial year.

We believe it’s time to focus on SECR. The good news is, if your business complies with ESOS, you’re in a much stronger position as you may have much of the data you require already to hand.

Who needs to comply with SECR?

The scheme affects UK quoted companies and ‘large’ unquoted companies and LLPs. These are defined as those meeting at least two of the following; 250 employees or more, annual turnover of £36m or more or an annual balance sheet of £18m or more.

What the scheme requires

For SECR, companies are required to report the following:

  • Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (indirect) energy and carbon emissions (electricity, gas and transport as a minimum).
  • Previous year’s figures for energy and carbon. At least one intensity ratio (e.g. tCO2/turnover).
  • Detail of energy efficiency action taken within the reporting year.
  • Reporting methodology applied.

When will you need to comply?

Compliance will be based on your financial reporting year. Therefore, if your financial year is 1st April – 31st March, your first energy and carbon disclosure data collection will be for the period covering 1st April 2019 – 31st March 2020. This must be submitted in your Director’s Report after March 2020.

Take a look at our chart to see when your SECR deadline will be.

What happens if I don’t comply?

Whilst there are no fixed penalties specified, as there are in ESOS, there are still consequences for non-compliance. Not meeting the reporting requirements of SECR can result in accounts not being signed off. Missing the filing deadline could lead to a civil penalty. So it’s important for organisations to fully align communications between their energy and finance teams and to get a head start where possible.

Save time and hassle

There are similarities with SECR and ESOS when it comes to required data for each scheme, this can be used to your advantage. We offer a combined ESOS and SECR compliance package for businesses at a discounted rate. If you’d like more information on this or any of our services, call +44 1527 511 757 or email us.