Investing to renew our future isn’t an option – it’s the only choice there is
INVESTING TO RENEW OUR FUTURE ISN'T AN OPTION - IT'S THE ONLY CHOICE THERE IS.
Thursday, 22 April
By Nick Blackmore, Managing Consultant and Renewable Futures Lead at Inner Circle Consulting.
Earth Day was first held on April 22, 1970, the year Joni Mitchell sang “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” and millions of people across the United States held street protests over the destruction of the environment.
Two years earlier, the first human spacecraft had reached the moon. As the astronauts of Apollo 8 sent back photographs of Earth to an awestruck public, the planet’s beauty sparked mass awareness of its fragility too, and rising air pollution and increased use of pesticides prompted debate about the impact of human actions on climate degradation. The first mass public action to save the planet was a hopeful and exciting moment.
Today, 52 years on, the official theme for Earth Day 2022 is Invest In Our Planet. We mark the day two weeks after a United Nations report said the world was running out of options to hit climate goals – with only immediate, sweeping societal transformation now able to stave off catastrophic warming. Campaigners are still doggedly making the same basic pleading as in 1970 that we need to look after our earth.
I run the Renewable Futures team at Inner Circle, and we work every day with the knowledge that climate change is the single greatest threat to a sustainable future – so investing in climate action is vital to prosperity. A climate action plan is not an expense. It is the only way to deliver growth and prosperity for all.
While politicians haggle over green levies and the public struggle with individual decisions about car use and recycling, at ICC my colleagues and I do the practical work of taking climate action every single day, with local government and community partners across the U.K. It’s not rocket science. It’s planning for net zero – whereby carbon dioxide emissions are balanced out – in a way that delivers core public sector responsibilities on jobs, housing, the economy and every facet of community life.
Right now, we’re working with Cornwall Council to find, produce and distribute heat that can pioneer new ways of living while tackling the climate emergency. Side by side with local council workers and community leaders, our local team is creating low carbon buildings in Truro while championing clean energy, urban agriculture, and the electric revolution. In Pydar, we are accelerating the delivery of new homes and business growth while achieving 60 percent energy regeneration on site – and delivering long-term financial returns that can be reinvested for social purposes such as employment, training, improved air quality and increased biodiversity.
In Birmingham, we are translating the U.K.’s second city’s carbon impact analysis into practical work that can deliver carbon savings from day one, while also putting in place the infrastructure and policies to achieve full decarbonisation. We worked with leadership and council staff to identify buildings and assets that could be retrofitted for reducing carbon emissions whilst improving the long-term investment opportunities for city properties.
And in the London Borough of Islington, having helped deliver a first-of-its-kind project that used heat from the London Underground to tackle fuel poverty on housing estates, we are now helping the council to electrify, over the next five years, its entire fleet of vehicles, from park-keepers’ vans to refuse lorries. In one of the most polluting boroughs in the UK we are working to eliminate 2,800 tonnes of carbon a year – the equivalent of planting five football pitches of forest.
All of these councils know that tackling climate change doesn’t just create better homes, streets and services but also supports public health, productivity and well-being. All of these councils know that none of these are competing priorities, but have to happen together. For one to work, they must all work.
And all of us doing this work also know that the investment of private enterprise in such schemes is an essential form of support. That investment need is particularly keen given the urgency of the work. We have been glad to work with socially responsible investors on the Pydar scheme in particular, and would encourage more in the corporate world to fully embrace their social value commitments. Where they lead, others will follow.
Investing in the planet means creating employment and training on green technology and skills. It means improving the environment and health of your communities. It means delivering better insulated and heated homes, and better air, and alleviating fuel poverty. It means understanding there are real economic benefits and also social benefits in every climate action we take, that grow resilient and hopeful communities.
Because we don’t have another 52 years.