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Profile: Peter Young
British environmental and sustainability strategist Peter Young played a significant role in bringing about a concrete and binding Climate Change Act in the UK and the Aldersgate coalition, which he chairs, helped create the setting up of a climate change and energy ministry, combining the expertise in climate and the environment, energy and finance under one roof. Visiting Australia, Mr Young had some welcome ideas and lessons for politicians and business leaders alike.
Peter Young, Chairman of the Aldersgate Group and Strategy Director, Enviros (now part of SKM Group) was in Australia in the first week of February to meet with businesses, and specifically to address a forum organised by Environment Business Australia in Sydney.
Ken Hickson attended the Sydney forum, listened intently to what Peter Yong had to say and met the man of the moment. Here’s his report:
It becomes very apparent when meeting and listening to Peter Young that here is a man very much in touch with, even part of, strategy development and policy planning that both reflects and involves business and Government at the highest level in the UK.
He speaks with authority on climate change, renewable energy, energy efficiency, green jobs and financing the low carbon economy.
His belief is Australia can learn from, even adopt for itself, the recommendations of the Aldersgate reports on a financing the transition to a low carbon economy, developing a resource efficient future, and the creation of green jobs, as they could be just as applicable here as in the UK.
The role that he plays in the Aldersgate Group as chairman is one of leadership, as this quite unique group brings together government officials and agencies, NGOs, business leaders and politicians of all shades and persuasions.
Not only does the Aldersgate Group influence and help formulate Government policy, it also gives direction, even guidance, to businesses as to how to prepare for the social, environmental and economic challenges and impacts of climate change and the transition to a low carbon economy.
How Australia would benefit from having a group that acts and reports like the UK’s Aldersgate coalition. Fiona Wain put up her hand at the forum and offered EBA as a suitable vehicle to get this process started.
While Peter Young was in Australia, the latest Aldersgate report was released in London, announcing that the UK must adopt an industrial strategy which goes ‘beyond carbon’ to address critical resource efficiency challenges in all areas of the economy if it is to maintain employment and a competitive, sustainable advantage in global markets, now and in the future.
Another example is the report Aldersgate released last November: ‘Mind the Gap – Skills for the transition to a low carbon economy’, which was launched at the House of Commons. It found that, despite the UK’s commitment to a rapid transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient economy, the Government’s skills strategy is inadequate to meet these needs. It is now imperative that ambition and delivery are accelerated.
Here’s another one, based on a report from the Group last October:
A more radical approach to financing low carbon projects is needed to ensure carbon targets are met, according to a report by the Aldersgate Group. It argues that a new strategic approach to reduce investor risks, mobilise capital and streamline institutional structures would accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy and reduce costs.
Three key recommendations were made that an effective financial strategy should:
1 Reduce the risk of investing in low carbon projects.
Significant advances in public policy will be required to make the necessary cuts in carbon
emissions. Concern that progress will not be fast enough or emission cuts deep enough
increases the financial risk of low carbon projects. This could be addressed by issuing
public guarantees or bonds index linked to emission reductions or carbon prices that can
provide a natural hedge for investors.
2 Mobilise private sector capital flows.
The Government must ensure that appropriate public policy mechanisms are in place to
mobilise capital from institutional investors at scale. Climate bonds could be particularly
effective by offering secure and long-term returns but these must be competitive.
3 Reform institutional structures.
Current structures which work on an ad hoc basis need to be reformed and rationalised
so that they can deliver in a more strategic and synchronised way. A Government-linked
financial institution, such as a Green Infrastructure Bank, could play a major role in
financing the low carbon transition. It would also create competitive advantage for the UK
and reduce dependency on the European Investment Bank which cannot meet predicted
future investment demand in the medium term.
The Aldersgate Group has some achievements up its collective sleeve. The coalition was instrumental in the creation of a combined climate change and energy ministry in Britain — which brings all the expertise in climate and the environment, energy and finance under one roof — and the subsequent introduction of the Climate Change Act.
Peter Young told Giles Parkinson of The Australian that finding ways to unlock finance is pivotal, be it for clean coal, nuclear energy, renewables, smart grids, or electric vehicles.
He told reiterated to those present at the Sydney forum that in Britain, Aldersgate has recommended that the initial financing gap be filled by government, perhaps in the form of loan guarantees now popular in the US. The benefit of this is that investors can focus on market risk rather than policy risk.
In a message as much for Australia as any other country, Peter Young urges governments to work more closely with universities to ensure that skills in new technologies are developed — electrical engineering for instance — and that training in current professions such as building, plumbing and electrical supply is expanded. It is those areas that may be the source of much of the green job expansion.
Here’s a little more information on Peter Young, who has 27 years experience in multi-disciplinary environmental management consulting.
He is also founder and Director of CAT Alliance Ltd, a member of the Advisory Council for the Environmental Industries Commission and was recently a commissioner on the Commission on Environmental Markets and Economic Performance.
SKM Enviros is the new name for the combined expertise and capabilities of the water and environment, health and safety teams in Europe of Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) – a global engineering, sciences and project delivery firm – and Enviros Consulting – an environmental, sustainability, health and safety consultancy.
The launch of the new SKM Enviros business follows the acquisition of Enviros by SKM from Carillion plc in October 2009.
In a resource-efficient, low carbon economy, SKM Enviros’ aim is to lead debate, influence policy and shape development to achieve outstanding client success in a more sustainable way.
SKM Enviros consultants will work with other SKM colleagues worldwide to bring the best that the 6,500 strong multi-disciplinary consultancy – including 1600 water and environment professionals – has to offer its clients.
Peter Young, SKM Enviros’ Strategy Manager, said, “The response from clients and staff to SKM’s acquisition of Enviros has been everything we hoped for and the coming together of the two teams as one combined force is a natural next step. We are really excited about offering an improved portfolio of services to our clients and sharing with them the capabilities of the global business.”
Enviros Consulting was founded more than 35 years ago and in 2009 was voted the Best Consultancy in four categories at the edie Awards for Environmental Excellence: Climate Change and Renewables: Due Diligence; Waste and Recycling; Water and Wastewater.
While Peter Young was in Australia, the following announcement was made in London (on 1 February 2010) as the latest report was launched in joint meeting of the Aldersgate Group and the All-Party Parliamentary Environment Group at the House of Commons:
The UK must adopt an industrial strategy which goes ‘beyond carbon’ to address critical resource efficiency challenges in all areas of the economy if it is to maintain employment and a competitive, sustainable advantage in global markets, now and in the future.
This is the conclusion of a far-reaching, in-depth report by the Aldersgate Group, a coalition of companies, NGOs, professional bodies, MPs and others, who believe that high environmental standards are essential to long term economic growth.
The report – Beyond Carbon: Towards a Resource Efficient Future – states that resource efficiency will be one of the key determinants of economic success and human well-being in the 21st century and describes what a resource efficient economy might look like and what policies would be required to enable the transition.
It welcomes the publication of the Low Carbon Industrial Strategy. However, there is now a need to go “beyond carbon” and adopt general resource efficiency principles through practices such as true resource pricing and life-cycle management. Resource efficient policies should become key objectives for HM Treasury’s Management of the economy and be supported across Government departments, the report says.
It also states that while carbon may be the most immediate resource issue, it is not the only one. Water and other resources are also of critical importance. Substantial cuts in carbon emissions will require changes to the use of natural resources with significant indirect carbon impacts.
Sir John Harman, former Chairman of the Environment Agency and lead author of the report, said: “There is understandably a focus on carbon in policy making at the moment. However, there are equally pressing resource demands across many areas of the economy which need to be addressed, such as water resources against energy use, food production against biofuels, natural habitats against agricultural intensification and so on. All of these will require a strong policy response and each will need to be addressed sector by sector.”
“We cannot rely on the market to act in time to anticipate constraints in natural resource stocks, we have to act in advance. The Low Carbon Industrial Strategy was an encouraging sign. For the first time, one of the economic ministries showed it wished to explicitly promote and shape Britain’s transition to a low carbon future. We now need to build and expand on this approach to promote low-resource consumption as a vital part of securing future competitive advantage. This report and the work of the Aldersgate Group can be seen as a step towards that.”
The report describes the possible features of a resource efficient economy by considering three contrasting economic sectors of food, water and materials. It makes clear that resource use has to be considered sector by sector. Although there are common issues, such as a need for a life-cycle approach to policy making and for the true price of environmental externalities to be reflected, they work out very differently in each sector due to the nature of the resources in question and the market structure in which each resource operates.
For example, the water sector is characterised by a small number of very large companies operating in a closely regulated manner. The report recommends the regulator’s role be enhanced to take a number of environmental considerations and costs into account and take some decisions on environmental grounds alone, rather than simply focusing on supplying water at least short-term cost to the consumer.
Conversely, the food sector has a large number of small enterprises, with the result that regulation is less all-encompassing and the market dominates. In the EU, 29% of all consumption derived GHG emissions are food related while the WWF estimates that food supply accounts for 23% of the total global ecological footprint. The food sector involves a complex interplay between land, water and nutrient resources so any regulatory response would have to include policies covering each diverse area. In addition there would have to be significant improvements made in food-chain economics to produce more with less and to reduce waste through the system, while far greater efforts would have to be made to drive sustainable consumption.
A one-size-fits-all approach would not work with such a complex production and consumption sector.
“Each of the case studies shows that there are some common general principles of economic management for a resource efficient world, but each sector requires its own approach, and some of the measures will require us to step away from traditional economic thinking,” Sir John Harman added. “We have made a number of policy recommendations in this paper but they will need support across Government departments through policies on spatial planning, the remits of regulators and specific targets in key sectors. It is now in Britain’s interest to build and expand on this approach to promote low-resource consumption as a vital part of securing future competitive advantage, because the economies of the future will be the ones that make best use of the available resources.”
About Aldersgate Group
The Aldersgate Group is a high level coalition of progressive businesses, environmental groups and individuals who believe that high environmental standards will be a major part of future economic growth and international competitiveness.
By presenting objective evidence based on the diverse experience of our members, we promote the case that there is no inherent contradiction between regulating for high environmental standards at the same time as maintaining economic growth and stimulating wealth creation. Quite the reverse: no economic policy which sacrifices environmental quality can succeed in the long term.
The Group engages actively with government and other key decision makers to contribute to the future development of UK economic, environment and sectoral policies, as well as providing a distinct voice that advances the better regulation and sustainability agendas.
Source: www.aldersgategroup.org.uk, www.skmconsulting.com and www.environmentbusiness.com.au