Mark Casci: How Yorkshire can play a key role in tackling climate change

Writing on the side of a temporary toilet set up as the road is blocked during a climate protest at Oxford Circus in London, Tuesday, April 16, 2019. The group Extinction Rebellion is organizing a week of civil disobedience against what it says is the failure to tackle the causes of climate change. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Writing on the side of a temporary toilet set up as the road is blocked during a climate protest at Oxford Circus in London, Tuesday, April 16, 2019. The group Extinction Rebellion is organizing a week of civil disobedience against what it says is the failure to tackle the causes of climate change. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
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One of the few things that really annoys me when people talk about environmental matters is the use of the phrase “save the planet”.

It is used time and time again and has many variations. There’s an arrogance behind it and one that undermines the ecological message.

Theresa May wants Britain to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Theresa May wants Britain to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

When the phrase “save the planet” is used, all too often what is actually being said is “save the planet, but only for humans to carry on as they are”.

Let’s be clear, arresting climate change, cutting pollution to zero and depending less on fossil fuels is the number one priority for humankind.

It poses an existential threat to the lives of millions of people and without action the face of the planet will be irrevocably altered.

And while the climate of the earth has changed many times during the billions of years of its history, it has never been changed at the rate it is now by its inhabitants.

Drax has announced a new zero carbon partnership with two big corporate names. Picture by Simon Hulme

Drax has announced a new zero carbon partnership with two big corporate names. Picture by Simon Hulme

But this does not mean the planet will not prevail, nature always does. Rising sea levels and temperatures are something the planet has dealt with for billions of years.

The last time the planet faced major fluctuations in temperatures, humankind was existing in hunter gatherer communities. I for one do not think I would fair particularly well seeking to hunt prey with handheld weaponry. Since smartphones came along I can barely read a regular paper map.

Every citizen on the planet has a role to play in making sure that the damage done so far does not only cease but declines.

The Government, or more specifically outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May, has committed the UK to net zero emissions by 2050.

Cynics will suggest Mrs May has one eye on the history books and wants a legacy that is not dominated by petty disagreements over our relationship with Europe.

And while we should recognise that this pledge is the first of its kind from any major world economy we should be aware that it is business, not Government, that is best placed to make this happen.

Reducing emissions is one thing but the real silver bullet lies in harnessing innovation in order to achieve what the environment needs to protect its inhabitants.

And when it comes to innovation, the business sector historically is the best place to find it.

In Yorkshire, we are blessed with vast potential to play a massive role in this.

The region is ideally situated to be a global player in carbon capture technology.

North Yorkshire power giant Drax recently began using C-Capture technology which could enable it to become the world’s first negative emissions power station.

The business community in the Hull and East Yorkshire area frequently talk of the ambition to make the Humber Estuary the Energy Estuary, with aspirations to make this a global player in its field. Already Siemens is building turbines for the offshore wind industry. With the right leadership more could be set to follow.

The likes of Sheffield’s Magtec are offering a range of solutions to the emissions problem posed by the transport industry, with plans underway for electrically powered buses and refuse lorries.

Even in the financial sector, Ecology Building Society in Silsden, North Yorkshire, is founded on environmental principles running across every aspect of its business.

The Yorkshire Post has hectored the Government a great deal in recent weeks to place the Northern Powerhouse agenda at the heart of all decision making.

We should do the same when it comes to environmental matters for all our businesses.

Are we making it easier for staff to commute without harmful emissions? How sustainable is your firm’s use of energy? How much is your company sending to landfill every day?

Yorkshire is a hotbed of innovation and there is a seriously credible base for it to be at the forefront of this movement.

“Environmental pollution is an incurable disease. It can only be prevented,” American academic Barry Commoner once wrote.

I hope that Yorkshire can lead on this mission statement.