Tread the Road Towards More Action

Information and inspiration from the 2016 Carbon Trust Public Sector Conference, and practical guidance about what we can do to help speeding up the transition towards a low carbon economy.

Tread the Road Towards More Action

Earlier this month, the Carbon Trust held a day-long conference, bringing together hundreds of local authorities and public organisations, to discuss how pledges made in Paris can be delivered at a local level. The conference was intended to provide up-to-date information and practical guidance to public servants, and to enable them to help local economies in their transition towards sustainability. For me, the event was a great success in trying to realise this intention.

The conference was kicked off by a keynote speech the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Lord Bourne. He raised the point that the ambitious Paris Agreement can be attributed to the universal appreciation of the urgency of the challenge we are facing. He explained the three major commitments of DECC: securing and creating local jobs, ensuring energy security and reducing energy bills for everyone. As a way to enhance audiences’ faith in DECC, he emphasised the UK government’s deep commitment to the transition towards sustainability and its eagerness to show global leadership in the battle against climate change. He also stated that DECC will support local clean energy programmes as much as possible with available resources, and the extended interest-free investment support was used as an example to vindicate his point.

However, Joan McNaughton from World Energy Council warned the audience about the worsening position of the UK in the Energy Trilemma, a term used to describe the difficulty of finding the balance between energy security, energy equity and environmental sustainability. The UK lost its consistent AAA rating (each A stands for a rating for one aspect of the Energy Trilemma) in 2015, due to reduced energy affordability. She also addressed concerns from investors about uncertainties in UK policies supporting low carbon technology, mainly due to lack of clarity about resources committed to this area after 2020.

“Carbon budget”, which is a legally binding carbon emission target set for the UK, was a term frequently mentioned in the conference. There are four carbon budgets have been set; starting from 2008, each covers four years. The fourth budget (2023-2027) requires the UK to realise 50% carbon emission reduction by 2025, from the 1990 level, and based on views from speakers at the conference, the likelihood of meeting the target is not very promising.

Additional supporting policy is needed urgently, to put more efforts towards the right direction before it’s too late.

What We Can Do

Clearly, while the COP21 Paris Agreement has been a major step forward in creating the conditions for global systematic change, we cannot rely on politics alone to resolve the issue, so it’s important to consider our individual and collective roles in this grand movement of transition towards sustainability. 


There were several key investment areas suggested by speakers, including renewable energy, energy efficient buildings, elimination of non-biodegradable waste from landfill, and low carbon vehicles. These are areas that will be supported by forthcoming government policies and abundant private investments in the near future, so it is worth considering potential opportunities and making long term plans.

The Green Finance industry is maturing fast and the Paris Agreement at COP21 is unlocking new pledges of public and private finance for green projects. See our partnership with Good Energy for more information about renewable energy, and our Fit for the Future Guide on investing in sustainable buildings, including a list of funding available in the Appendix. The importance of risk assessment was emphasised in the conference (also covered in our guide), in understanding impact of sustainable business planning, opportunities for social, economic and creative development that are inextricably connected to the sustainability of your organisation, and being at the frontline of this “industrial ”. 


A major take away from the conference was the importance of reaching out to your local council for support and partnership. Local authorities are eager to do whatever they can to meet local carbon reduction targets and increase engagement with “green” initiatives, hence foundation for collaboration is very strong in win-win scenarios like this.

Other partnerships can also add value, such as communities, local businesses, environmental NGOs, and of course bodies like Julie’s Bicycle.


It’s important for us to advocate for policies to support change, and one of the most powerful ways to do this is to tell the stories about where it’s happening in the arts and culture. Many organisations are bridging the present with a more radically sustainable future, and we need to be more outspoken about this leadership, to give policy makers the confidence that this is an issue important to us as cultural leaders, citizens, and public figures, and give them a mandate to take meaningful action.

We’d also love to hear from you, and help you share these stories. Check out our resources to support action, and let us know what else you need. Join us on this road towards more action: a sustainable future is well within our reach, if we act to make it happen.


Sustaining Creativity