Climate change focus brings opportunity

THE profile afforded to this week’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali is yet another sign that the issue is firmly fixed on the agenda, with everybody from the Prince of Wales downwards now paying close attention to the debate.

THE profile afforded to this week’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali is yet another sign that the issue is firmly fixed on the agenda, with everybody from the Prince of Wales downwards now paying close attention to the debate.

Last week, 150 global companies signed the Prince’s communique urging an ambitious and legally-binding UN agreement on reducing greenhouse gases. Their commitment, a year on from the groundbreaking Stern report, demonstrates that business no longer considers the environmental agenda a threat, but an issue which requires urgent action.

Smaller businesses are also seeking to make a difference, and NECC Utilities has launched a new carbon footprinting service for North-East Chamber of Commerce members, helping them measure and reduce their environmental impact.

But more than that, the focus on environmental issues presents a significant opportunity for new business developments, which will see forward-thinking entrepreneurs in the region tap into growing markets for sustainable products.

That includes renewable energy, with North-East Chamber of Commerce members D1 Oils, Biofuels Corporation and Sembcorp among those involved in this important market. Only last week, a fresh proposal for a biodiesel production facility in North Tyneside was put forward, further demonstrating the growing awareness of opportunities in this field. Though the North-East missed out on hosting the Energy Technologies Institute, that certainly does not mean the region’s expertise in the field of environmental technology will cease.

It is there in abundance in North-East universities, and developments such as Newcastle Science City should help convert that into business opportunities creating not just environmental benefits, but jobs and wealth, too. While the great and good debate appropriate responses in Bali this week, North-East companies have more cause for optimism from this issue than concern.

Ross Smith is North-East Chamber of Commerce head of policy.

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