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Must it be a contest?

20 December 2021

Must it be a contest?

Brexit minister Lord Frost gave a number of reasons for his shock resignation over the weekend, announced almost exactly a year since he played a key role in negotiating Britain’s exit from the EU. 

Most were political points concerning the Conservative party’s “direction of travel” under Boris Johnson. Lord Frost’s resignation letter urged prioritising “a lightly regulated, low-tax, entrepreneurial economy”. He also railed against the Plan B Covid prevention measures which he believed had been imposed wholesale on the population. 

However, Lord Frost is also reported to have had concerns about what some have called a government preoccupation with meeting net zero carbon targets by 2050 and the related costs, which some estimate will reach £1.4 trillion. 

The shift to a low-carbon future is frequently couched in terms of a contest. Race to Zero is the United Nations-backed global campaign to rally companies, cities, financial institutions and other non-state stakeholders to halve global emissions by 2030. 

And Race to Resilience is a sibling UN-backed initiative established this year to promote a sustainable long term future. 

Few people question the urgent need to reduce emissions and protect the planet. But does the language of having races foster a sense of intense competition? 

Back in October 2020, the blog reported on the prime minister’s Conservative party conference speech in which he announced that “the UK government has decided to become the world leader in low cost clean power generation” as part of a green revolution. 

If the challenge of net zero is a global one, the idea of one nation eclipsing another in a quest for leadership seems contradictory. 

And while highlighting the need for urgent action, ideas of racing to solutions might lead to companies and individuals making wrong or premature choices – Betamax rather than VHS, for those who recall video recorders - which could end up being costly. 

Indeed, the blog’s occasional stories on high-mileage electric vehicle drivers suggest that some believe they have acted hastily as the charging infrastructure proves inadequate for them. 

The Site-Eco section of the blog has shown that hirers, suppliers and end users are eager to adopt sustainable and practical solutions once they are clearly identified and explained. Clearly there must be ongoing debate about appropriate methods and measures. 

Perhaps there are parallels here with health and safety regulations: No-one would dream of claiming to have the ‘safest’ product or organisation. 

Just as safety is more to do with meeting agreed and accepted general standards rather than achieving a competitive edge, a similar approach is perhaps more appropriate towards net zero obligations, instead of having competitive contests. 

● For more of the latest Site-Eco stories click here


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