Our current campaign – to introduce stricter rules on industrial energy and resource efficiency
Industrial emissions are a complex area of different sources of emissions, and will require electrification, hydrogen and carbon capture technologies longer term. But there are areas of industrial production where the energy used in manufacturing is severely wasted, and the manufacturing process itself generates wasteful or short lived products. British industry could quickly reduce its emissions by implementing better energy and resource efficiency standards.
First, the government should introduce much greater policy detail on how it intends to meet its goal of industry becoming 20% more energy efficient by 2030.
Secondly, introduce resource efficiency standards to reduce wastage and energy use, particularly in specific sectors such as the automotive industry and construction. By reducing the number of component parts needed and extending their usefulness and lifespan, this reduces the amount of manufacturing required.
Emissions from industrial processes equalled 105 million tonnes in 2018, and the two policies above could reduce emissions by a further 39 million tonnes in 2030. This is not to preclude but rather to prepare industry for developments in electrification, hydrogen, carbon capture and other technologies. UK made products that are exported can also help other countries reduce their emissions. Other environmental benefits include fewer waste products, and less harmful substances from the making of those products.
For individuals, they will have longer lasting products, including products with the ‘right to repair’, making products more repairable and easier for the individual to disassemble. This also diversifies jobs for repairing goods and creating innovations in energy efficiency for manufacturers. Energy efficiency also saves businesses, up to £6bn a year by 2030 if these were implemented, for the same profits and products.
Much like the buildings sector, longer term options for industry are more technically challenging, such as hydrogen and carbon capture and storage deployment. Encouraging a much more efficient use of industry now reduces the challenge of switching to these technologies later, and can speed up the transition to low carbon industry. This also has the additional benefit of the UK being able to make more of its own products as industrial output is increased. This would also bring us closer to a circular economy, where fewer products are wasted and more are re-used, allowing the UK much greater reliance on imports and exports.
Industry is also the second highest emitting sector in the UK after surface transport, and with rapid rollout of electric vehicles, it could quickly end up being the largest over the 2020s. Taking these actions now could reduce emissions quickly, and avoid negative feedback towards these industries later as they become the focus of greater public attention. Moreover, there is great public enthusiasm for using products more effectively, with 90% of the public saying that society should be more resource efficient. Politically, the UK also brands its good as high quality, and making some of the lowest carbon goods in the world advertises the UK’s environmental credentials globally and adds to its soft power brand. These measures would also have the additional benefit of exporting low carbon goods internationally, also helping other countries indirectly to decarbonise.