Last week I met with businesses in Bristol tackling the climate emergency through innovation. It was extremely useful for me to be able to listen to the problems facing these businesses and what the government needs to be doing to support them.
Many of you have written to make the case for strong and decisive climate action. Businesses built with the objective of providing climate change solutions are an important piece in the puzzle.
We need to ensure that the right incentives and support is in place for entrepreneurs who have solutions to the problems we are faced with. Starting a business has never been easy. It has been made particularly difficult by the pandemic and the government’s mixed messaging on climate.
I took away a lot from the meeting, including the points below:
- New businesses need support in the form of grant funding. Today there is a shortage of grants. According to a study, since January 2020, the government’s financial support for fossil fuels has exceeded support for clean energy by over $10 billion.
- A lot of the funding is available for very specific technologies, for example carbon capture or greenhouse gas recovery. Or it is aimed towards investing in new infrastructure such as bike stands. But a variety of products and services will also help address climate change, and fall outside these criteria.
- The government has indicated investing in nuclear and hydrogen energy as two of its key focus areas under the Ten Point Plan. While there are positives associated with these sources of energy compared to fossil fuels, a lot depends on factors such as storage of nuclear waste and how the hydrogen is being produced.
- Many countries we trade with have a clear roadmap in place for tighter regulations when it comes to household goods and their impact of the environment. However, this government has shied away from enforcing tougher restrictions on those polluting our water and our air. If we don’t match our regulation to that of other countries, we may end up as the dumping ground for older and more polluting products.
- Regulating bodies have been cut back. These need to properly funded so that they are able to catch those breaking environmental laws. Today it is easier for companies to flout rules and pay when they are caught, because the chances of them getting caught are very low. We need stronger environmental rules and stronger enforcement.
- Funding the right solutions can have a wider impact beyond the climate. For example, the government could save millions being spent on healthcare by funding solutions that get people to walk and cycle more.
I aim to take forward the suggestions from the meeting in the form of ministerial questions to the relevant government departments and share them with the Labour Shadow Cabinet team.
I will continue to do my upmost in supporting the solutions to the biggest challenge we face in our time.