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Engaging with Government is essential for meeting Net Zero targets, Business Sustainability meeting is told

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Engaging with Government is essential for meeting Net Zero targets, Business Sustainability meeting is told



 

The Isle of Man business community needs to be fully engaged with Government, if the Island is to successfully transition to a net zero economy.

That was the strong message stemming from the latest IOM Business Sustainability Group meeting, organised by the Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce. The Group, a subsidiary of the Chamber of Commerce Climate Change Programme (COCCCP), is fully supported by Conister Bank. In turn, the Bank has spearheaded engagement with the Energy & Sustainability Centre Isle of Man, recognising that Island businesses have a common goal in tackling the transition towards net zero. 

The event was attended by more than 50 Chamber members from across the business community. It featured a panel discussion, led by Business Sustainability Chair, Ralph Peake, with expert input from Dr Christa McCartney, University Lecturer and Further Education teacher at UCM in Business Ethics and Social Responsibility; Jon Curtis, founder of Curtis & Associates, an energy management company specialising in energy industry data; and Chris Gledhill, Climate Change Programme Lead for the IOM Chamber of Commerce.

Every country in Western Europe has a commercial wind turbine – except the Isle of Man

With delegates giving their overwhelming support for the Island taking full responsibility for its own energy - rather buying it from somewhere else - Mr Peake said that the Isle of Man currently had no control over the electricity and gas that it pays for.

Highlighting the Island’s current energy situation, Mr Curtis said that although the Isle of Man potentially had the greatest supply of renewable energy, with many companies keen to use it, at present only 0.6% of the Island’s green energy output was generated local – via the hydro project at Sulby.  He said the Isle of Man was the only democracy in western Europe that didn’t have a single commercial wind turbine. “It’s shocking. Every other country has a wind turbine, yet we don’t have one.”

Despite the current paucity of renewable energy projects, he said that the Isle of Man, along with Jersey and Guernsey, was working on obligations with the UK, making them legally liable to reach net zero by 2050. “The IOM Government has to fit in with those UK targets,” warned Mr Curtis. He said the carbon footprint of the Isle of Man currently stood at around 720,000 tonnes, a figure that had risen over the last three years. “That’s quite a lot.  Once the Isle of Man has joined in this legally binding obligation, we have to go all the way down to net zero in 28 years.”

 Net zero targets – not just the domain of larger companies

 He said that, before long, there would be a requirement for some form of renewable energy projects, such as land-based wind turbines. “This is going to become a legal obligation. The Isle of Man risks becoming the pariah of western Europe. Everybody else is moving towards net zero and we are going to find ourselves in the year 2040 having done nothing.”

 Mr Curtis recognised that whilst many businesses on Island were doing well with their commitment to CSR and ESG, a carbon tax was imminent, adding that either this year or next, any company with a turnover of over £750m would have to demonstrate their carbon footprint. “Many of these companies have a presence on the Isle of Man,” he observed.  

“The Government here wants us to de-carbonise and they are going to lean on business to do so. They are going to put out these edicts and sooner or later, there is going to be some form of mandatory requirement to identify our carbon footprint,” he warned, adding that net zero targets weren’t just the domain of larger companies. “This may not apply to our size of business, but this ceiling is going to come down and eventually Government will be leaning on all sizes of business to fix these problems”.

He said that 70% of the gas used to generate electricity at Pulrose is sourced from Russia. Mr Curtis added that even when demand for electricity on the Island was low, the power station interconnector was designed to keep sending electricity supply away from the Island, maintaining a high on-Island carbon footprint. “We have a major problem here – and it needs significant changes,” he warned.  

 The gas-powered station would need to be taken offline, to be replaced by renewable energy sources that were carbon neutral.  “What can business do, if we are to sign up to the renewable energy tariff? We have to prove that the electricity is green.”

 Mr Curtis said that the Island’s business community had to come together to make that decision. “What we have got to do is to exploit things like wind energy. We need a rational look at our resources, to reduce our carbon emissions.  In a situation where we maximise the use of wind, energy will become cheaper.  The capital cost may be quite high, but we can manage our costs around the peaks and troughs.”

 Furthermore, he recognised the importance of engaging with young people and schools because they cared about the environment. They were the business leaders of the future but currently they weren’t being shown any good examples of local renewable energy projects.  

 Electrification is integral to a sustainable future 

 Meanwhile, Chris Gledhill said that electrification programmes, like transport, should be pursued. “Electricity is the basic currency for a carbon neutral future. Electrification has to happen in parallel with everything else we are doing.  We have the natural resources to complement that journey,” he said. 

 Mr Gledhill said a long-term view was required, but that an incremental approach to becoming more sustainable and reaching net zero was surely the way forward from here.  “We should feel empowered in the longer term,” he said, using property as an example. “If we are lending people money to buy homes together with home improvements, that it is a good idea. We should recognise that buying a lower energy home is going to be a better asset. There are a lot of common-sense things we can do over the longer term.”

 It was revealed that although Government had undertaken consultation with Island residents, who wanted interim renewable energy targets fast-tracked by 2030, any plans to do so had been postponed until 2035.

 Dr McCartney said the Government had become fixated on the power station. “It is a hurdle in their heads. The public want a vision. How do we tell the powers-that-be what we want? Are we going to wait for them to change themselves?” she questioned, saying that it was imperative to get a clear message across to the Government. “We need to help them overcome the fear of risk, as the public have told them quite clearly that is what they want,” she said. 

 Regarding electric vehicles, the meeting heard that there are currently only 72 chargers around the Island. Electrification of vehicles and the need for more recharging points, which could potentially be placed on lamp posts, was something that the Government infrastructure team should be focussing upon, the panel recommended.  

 “They need more chargers,” said Mr Curtis. “They are not predicting the market, unlike most businesses, who are projecting. So, this is something that as a business community, we can do,” he suggested.

Business and Government pulling together

Speaking afterwards, Conister’s Head of Sales Andy Bass, said: “This was another extremely constructive meeting. It was abundantly clear that the local business community needs to engage as much as possible with Government, to bring about the changes which are required to meet the Island’s net zero targets.

“We must ensure that we all pull together to create an energy policy which is right for the Isle of Man as a whole. That’s why we need to deliver a clear message and help Government make the appropriate, long-term decisions,” Andy added. 

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