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All parties must help raise energy efficiency

Business leaders have urged the leaders of Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to take immediate action on raising energy efficiency to prepare for a sharp rise in targets for cutting carbon emissions.

A letter was sent to all three political leaders by the Prince of Wales’s UK Corporate Leaders Group – which includes high profile representatives from UK’s leading companies including Centrice, Lloyds TSB, Shell, E.ON and John Lewis.

The group – set up in 2005 to bring together a cross section of UK and international businesses - argues the UK “should adopt a working assumption” that carbon targets will be raised international.

It says next year’s UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations in Copenhagen will lead to the European Union having to increase its target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from 20 per cent to 30 per cent.

The letter stated: “The global economic downturn may cause some to question whether the UK can afford to act so boldly, but we believe action cannot be delayed, and furthermore, that decisive action will stimulate economic activity and job creation in certain key sectors as well as reduce costs in the medium to long term.”

Energy efficiency standards were one of the six areas highlighted in the letter. 

It stated: “We welcome the Government’s focus on energy efficiency as a response to rising fuel prices.

“The crucial role of energy efficiency in reducing energy demand, cutting emissions and improving energy security has long been known but more needs to be done to drive the necessary change in behaviour and to increase efficiency gains, particularly in sectors not covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (such as commercial, residential and public buildings).

“Incentives are also required for retrofitting existing building stock along with much higher energy efficiency standards for products, materials, equipment and appliances. Disincentives must be removed.”

The letter also said public procurement had to be transformed to encourage the take-up of low-carbon goods and energy efficiency measures.

It said: “Public procurement drives one third of the UK economy but, to date, attempts to ensure ‘green’ procurement have largely resulted in small changes to existing specifications. We believe the public sector should set bold new specifications for the sustainable products and services it seeks to purchase in the longer term (e.g. in five years time).

“These ‘Forward Procurement Commitments’ would guarantee future markets for low-carbon goods and services, and unlock investment in and development of new products (low-emission vehicles, energy efficient buildings and retrofits, lighting, and countless other products and services). Companies would still compete for the lucrative business and so the new approach need not cost more (and may cost less).”

Other issues highlighted by the group included developing a “robust” carbon market, better support for low-carbon technologies and consumer education.