As the world gears up for COP26 in Glasgow in November, the 100% electric and emission-free Carbon Battle Bus has been touring the UK and most recently stopped off at the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus to raise awareness of support available to businesses to make this transition to net zero.
More than 60 small businesses from the area attended the event to find out more about beginning the journey to net-zero operations. The bus visit highlighted the relaunch of the LoCASE project, which provides EU grants of up to £10,000 to SMEs in the South East who are looking to improve environmental resilience, profitability and competitiveness through ‘green’ projects.
Representatives from organiser and sustainability certification body Planet Mark were also on hand to explain how businesses can officially join the UN-backed Race to Zero initiative. The event also provided the ideal opportunity for Planet Mark to host an SME sustainability workshop with sessions on jargon busting and SME journeys.
Businesses were also provided with information on the Government’s Together for our Planet campaign, which is building momentum for action on climate change ahead of COP26 by highlighting how individuals, businesses and organisations are going #OneStepGreener. This includes work on offshore wind farms to local initiatives encouraging more people to walk instead of drive.
Professor Shane Weller, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Innovation at the University of Kent, was joined on the day by Environmental Advisor Catherine Morris, Funding and Partnership Development Manager Simon Barnes, and sustainability experts from the Kent Business School.
The University of Kent has reduced its direct carbon emissions by over 29.4% in the last 10 years as part of its Carbon Management Plan, and is committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2040. This Plan also details the University’s ambition to eliminate emissions embedded in what it procures and how staff and students travel.
The event also provided an opportunity to hear from leaders in the business sector and Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for the Environment, Susan Carey, on all the great work happening in Kent to support businesses in this area and for businesses community to take the many new opportunities in this burgeoning sector.
The event also highlighted the work of Kent County Council and South East Local Enterprise Partnership, who have partnered with Opergy to deliver a pilot programme supporting clean growth businesses across the South East. Clean Growth South East has been establishing a new network for businesses to understand this complex landscape and identify green opportunities.
The clean growth industry already contributes £5.98 billion to the South East economy, employing more than 84,800 people across 12,400 businesses. This is a vitally important industry in the South East, and will only grow in the coming years. That is why organisations and institutions such as the University of Kent, Kent County Council and the South East LEP are working hard to provide initiatives, workshops and support to businesses so they can stay at the forefront of the clean growth agenda.
Professor Shane Weller, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Innovation, University of Kent said:
“It is only through working together that we can effectively achieve what needs to be achieved in order to meet the absolutely necessary net-zero emissions that will help to address the climate emergency and ensure a safe and healthy future for all.
”It is thus particularly encouraging to see so many of us setting ourselves the same aims. From Kent County Council to the many SMEs in the region and the University of Kent, we are all on this journey together. The University’s progress in this area has been significant, with an almost 30% reduction in direct emissions over the last decade as part of our Carbon Management Plan. But there is still a great deal to do. Working with our partners, with the Council, and with businesses across the region, we look forward to taking that work forward at pace and in a spirit of innovation.”
Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for the Environment, Susan Carey, said:
“I find it hugely encouraging to see the commitment shown by Kent’s small businesses to reach Net Zero. It is through everyone taking responsibility for our shared environment that we will protect and enhance it for future generations.
“KCC is making rapid progress on its plans to reach Net Zero for its own buildings and services by 2030 and beyond that we are working towards Net Zero for Kent as a whole by 2050.”
South East LEP Deputy Chair Sarah Dance said:
“Clean growth is one of the driving forces behind our work as a LEP. This is an area that is now woven into every aspect of the business landscape, and we want to ensure that all businesses across the South East have every opportunity and all the support they need to achieve the vital status of net-zero.
“We all benefit from championing clean growth – not only for the environment and our health and wellbeing, but to help keep our businesses resilient and sustainable in a rapidly changing business landscape. We are delighted to see that so many businesses have made the pledge to begin their journey to achieving net zero carbon emissions.”
The South East LEP, alongside Coast to Capital and Enterprise M3, is part of Energy South2East, whose tri-LEP energy strategy sets out a series of projects and actions plans on clean growth. These can be scaled up to meet the vision of the South East becoming a leader for sustainable energy production within the UK, powering innovative, decarbonised and clean economic growth.