Edie.Live’s Policy Connect talks highlight key role policy research plays in critiquing Government strategy

On Tuesday 17th May, the Policy Connect Sustainability team made their way to the Edie.Live conference in Birmingham. Promising to be a key forum that puts sustainability and energy and resource management at the centre of business, Edie.Live saw 130 companies showcasing their innovations, products and services, with more than 120 speakers hosting sessions across four theatres, including our own Owain Mortimer and Anne-Marie Benoy. 

On day one, Owain, Energy and Climate Change Manager at Policy Connect, spoke at one of the seminars that kick-started the conference, and gave everyone a bit of a stir. The ‘policy landscape and regulatory challenges’ session in the Edie Leaders Theatre included senior speakers from DECC, Carbon Connect, Aldersgate Group, EEF, Carillion plc and Kingfisher. 

Owain’s talk covered ‘the carbon question - what does it mean for your business?’ in which he emphasised the importance of clear requirements for businesses to reduce carbon emissions and also how the importance of consistent long-term policy businesses can enable businesses to drive action and innovation. He then went on to discuss the recent climate change policy changes which have affected business, particularly the abolishment of the carbon reduction commitment, and the benefits of businesses focusing on reducing their carbon emissions. He also, somewhat controversially, criticised the Government for their lack of leadership on domestic energy and climate change policy, and urged them to look again at its energy strategy in the long term, calling for more engagement to create long-term, effective policy frameworks.

Owain also recently penned an opinion piece for Utility Week’s sister website Network in which he discussed how the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) reforms could drastically cut off a budding low carbon heat industry in its prime, and that reforms should be finding ways to increase and diversify the RHI technology uptake, rather than focus solely on biomass, with many questions over its sustainability. 

Anne-Marie Benoy, Manager of the All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group and the Sustainable Resource Forum, spoke at the ‘Drivers for resource efficiency: What happens if we don’t engage?’ session in the Resource Efficiency Theatre. She spoke alongside experts from Dell, Giraffe Innovation and the Knowledge Transfer Network. Speaking about ‘the role of policy in driving resource efficiency’, Anne-Marie discussed two APSRG reports: Triple Win, and Link to Link, both of which identified why resource efficiency is key environmentally, socially and economically, and explained what policy meant to the sustainable resource industry. 

This was followed by a discussion about the role of policy, policy makers and Government in driving resource efficiency and the importance of business, academia, and NGOs in engaging with policy makers to drive resource efficiency and circular economy up the policy agenda.The session recognised that businesses are doing innovative work around resource efficiency but that policy, regulation and legislation still pays a key role in driving resource efficiency and sustainability forward as we saw with the Landfill Tax in 1996/7 and WEEE Directive, and will hopefully see out of the EU Circular Economy package.

Anne-Marie highlighted how good, supportive environmental policy drives and encourages investment and that’s why it is important to inform policy and engage with Government and policy makers in this process, as Policy Connect does. Unfortunately, England is risking falling behind the Netherlands, Germany, Scotland and countries in Scandinavia which are creating more incentivised policies that are pro-circular economy and resource efficiency, and this is a risk for UK productivity, as well as an economic and environmental risk. Anne-Marie therefore called for the delegates at Edie Live to engage more with policy makers and organisations working to improve and inform better public policy development.