In a welcome piece of good news, it recently emerged that the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 6% in 2016. In the fight to protect the planet for future generations, such a drop is clearly cause for celebration. But, how has the UK managed to reduce its pollution, and what part have businesses played in helping to move towards a greener future?
Energy sector plays an important role
One of the key ways in which the UK has cut its emissions is in the changes seen in the energy sector. Businesses here are driving the transition away from a carbon-hungry past, weaning the nation off coal and onto alternative sources of energy.
In this sector alone, emissions actually fell 19%, with coal plants closed or switched to biomass. Figures show that there has been a drastic drop in the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the energy supply sector, with this falling by 54% since 1990.
Coal now accounts for less than a tenth of the UK’s energy – with renewables and nuclear making up almost half between them.
Better business working practices
Producing cleaner energy is clearly a big part of the process and it probably masks the fact that the transport we use and the homes we live in actually produced slightly more emissions in 2016.
One other area in which emissions fell last year, however, was in relation to industrial processes. The work done by businesses is now much eco-friendlier, with innovations over a number of decades helping to cut the pollution that many processes would previously have thrown up.
Surface preparation and industrial blasting – for example – has evolved so far away from its origins as sandblasting and is a good example of a leaner and cleaner sector. Firms such as Airblast have developed ways to make this industry green, safe and efficient, whether that’s on a small scale with portable equipment or in big blast cabinets.
On top of that, businesses have been striving for ways to cut costs and stay as competitive as possible. That means that there has been an economic reason to find ways to reduce emissions, adding hard-headed business sense to ethics to create an ever more compelling case for change.
Digital can also cut carbon
Businesses are also able to use the advantages handed to them by modern digital working practices to become greener. While entirely paperless offices might still be beyond our reach, the widespread use of smarter, connected devices and software has cut much of the paper mountain that was needed in a standard office. The growth of cloud computing has also helped to move away from the need for copious amounts of paperwork in workplaces up and down the country. Video conferencing is, thanks to better software and better internet speeds, much smoother and more user-friendly, cutting down on travel time and pollution when it comes to unnecessary meetings.
Businesses, therefore, are ‘doing their bit’ to help cut emissions in the UK. From pushing ahead with new energy production methods through to greener process and working practices, much progress has been made in the last couple of decades.
That doesn’t mean we can relax, however. There’s still plenty to be done, but businesses seem increasingly switched on to the challenge and ready and willing to play their part. Indeed, just recently 30 businesses, including Kingfisher, the owner of B&Q, and engineering giant Arup, wrote to the Government to urge ministers to commit to an ambitious energy efficiency drive in its forthcoming Clean Power Plan.
So, while complacency must be avoided, it’s time for credit where it’s due.