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Business titans set out 2009 green wish list

Business titans set out 2009 green wish list

BusinessGreen.com tracked down some of the UK's most influential business leaders at the CBI's recent Climate Change conference to find out what they expect from the green business movement in 2009.

Richard Lambert, director general of the CBI

"The past 12 months have brought opportunity and real risk, but the UK still has the chance to lead the world on tackling climate change. Recent developments have made the task tougher and more challenging, but any lost momentum would be much worse than serious. There is now a consensus among businesses that building a low carbon economy needs an industry roadmap from the government. Without that, we will not get anywhere.

A recovery in the global economy will eventually see a surge in oil prices and we will need a diverse energy mix all the more. Spending on low carbon research and development from the government needs to equal that of defence and we need to work harder to develop Carbon Capture and Storage. We also need more science GCSE's and engineering careers."

Roeland De Waard, chairman of Ford UK

"In the early 2000s, we saw a gradual share decline and so we went to the customer and asked them what they wanted from their cars. One of the things they wanted was efficiency. We now have one of the most competitive ranges of fuel efficient vehicles, and they should sell better than other models when times are hard.

One of the most important things I would argue what we need going forward is a sector-neutral approach to carbon pricing. Eleven per cent of CO2 comes from cars, but that CO2 is taxed up to 13 times as much as the price of carbon.

What is challenging about the [recently imposed EU car] 130g/km emissions limit is the timeframe. Our product development cycle is six years, so that makes it impossible for us to meet the 2012 targets that have been set."

Marcus Agius, chairman of Barclays Bank

"The speed and severity of this downturn are unprecedented. The number of people who got it right in terms of predictions were a very small club. Recent gyrations in the price of natural resources such as oil will be very helpful [to the environmental cause]. The fact that oil prices have come down is immaterial - people have seen that it can happen.

The growth in clean tech investment in the UK has been up 60 per cent this year on the previous year. People who invest as a way of life will look at this as an area of growth, because many traditional asset classes are not where they should be. Leadership and commitment is crucial and Barack Obama is great in comparison to his predecessor."

Andrew Duff, chief executive of RWE npower

"Stern led to the impression that moving to a low carbon economy could be painless, but I think it will be expensive. The recent Climate Change Committee report started to recognise the full range of measures we will need in the areas of energy efficiency, transport and nuclear power. It also addressed cost in a way that allows us to have an informed discussion.

The cost is a lot higher for low carbon, unless you put a significant price on environmental harm. Solar energy and clean coal are significantly more expensive than the legacy energy generating technologies. In the US the entire energy system does need to be rebuilt over the next 20 years so they have a once in a lifetime opportunity to rebuild with a low carbon infrastructure.

Private Capital has a large role to play and often better addresses innovation and technology development than public capital. We need to recognise the legitimate aspirations of private investors as well as incentives as well as taxes to encourage investment."

Ben Verwaayen, chief executive of Alcatel Lucent

"I think there is a compelling argument that tackling climate change is an important element of the way out of the current financial crisis. Getting out of an economic downturn requires innovation. There needs to be regulatory certainty, so we can have a new wave of innovation. By 2020 we need to have developed compelling new products and services so the consumer can reduce their footprint by 50 per cent.

The financial crisis is an opportunity. A recession proves that if you continue to do what you have always done, you end up somewhere you don't want to be. Demanding consumers and an enabling government will help the business community steer us out of this crisis."

Tom Crotty, chief executive of Chemicals firm INEOS Chlor

"We run energy intensive manufacturing operations - one of our sites consumes the same amount of electricity as Liverpool - and have reduced our energy costs by about 20 per cent. In hard times, other businesses will want to do the same and this ties in with the environmental agenda. During a recession you have to ensure that investments are rewarding. The renewables obligation system works and we need reassurance that with a change of government doesn't come a change of regulation."

Steve Sharratt, chief executive of Environmental Consultancy Biogroup

"We started the year knowing it was going to be an uphill run, but few expected the hammer blow that the financial crisis has delivered. And now, coming over the horizon is a car which is climate change - we need to get on board that car and hope it is electric. There are a number of competing pressures, but customers are going to demand that businesses become low carbon, as well other businesses we trade with.

That means those who are quick off the mark can use a low carbon supply chain as a unique selling point. Going low carbon will mean lower risk going forward. Doing nothing will mean spiralling costs, un-insurable events, natural disasters and a collapsing economy. For the future of the economy we have to sow the seeds of low carbon growth now."


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