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"How to......." ENGIE's vision for strong partnership

18 February 2020
Reading Time: 3 mins


Chris Langdon, Development & Investment Director
ENGIE Places & Communities

“ENGIE joined UKBCSD because we knew we would be sharing the same space as other advocates and ambassadors, pioneering organisations like our own, led by people committed to sustainability. Our stated ambition is to be a leader in the Zero Carbon Transition and, as a global business, we are putting our money where our mouth is, transforming our business and our industry. This is a radical position but one that has become our ethos.

As an example, in November 2018 The Guardian reported our plans for the former coal fired power station at Rugeley in Staffordshire, which stopped generating electricity in 2016 because of the changing economic and environmental context. Rather than sell the site and leave the market to deliver we decided to act as developer and transform the site, as part of our transition to Zero Carbon and adopting all the principles of sustainability, , creating 2,300 super-efficient new homes, powered by solar energy and heat pumps. We have our eyes on other similar sites around the UK. This is all about better outcomes.

Summarising the ENGIE vision is pretty straightforward: we want to work with others, as a strong serious and committed partner, aligning our values to long term, sustainable models. We want to have a restorative impact on the natural environment and contribute towards an equal society.

The key word here is ‘partner’ - or rather partnership - and specifically with the public sector. Currently development in this country all too often seems constrained by a regulatory and compliance based system rather than a visionary and aspirational one. Change is needed and this is where the private and public sectors must work together. It is pretty clear that the best outcomes are achieved by public sector leadership combined with the expertise and investment capacity of the private sector; without this combination the risk is that little gets done, certainly not at the scale, aspiration and pace needed.

Yet the public sector holds the key if Britain is to reach net zero any time soon. It is ideally and uniquely placed to lead the transition. This month (February 2020), ENGIE published the first of a two-part guide for local authorities, “How to solve a problem like…net zero” which sets out to define the issues faced at local level. We identify these under five interconnected headings – Governance and Leadership, Urban Development, Urban Mobility, Energy and Resource Use and Resilience.

Each of these is explored in some depth, the idea being to inspire strategic thinking and encourage direction. We will be following it up with examples of ‘how to’, proposing projects and programmes that need to be undertaken to lead the transition to net zero.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the first of our headings, Governance and Leadership, is fundamental to success for the public sector. We talk about Place-based Leadership including inter-authority agreements, local economic partnerships, business improvement districts and energy innovation zones. Behavioural Change is another critical issue, given that the UK Committee on Climate Change has noted that broad and deep public engagement will be crucial in enabling the country to meet its net zero position by 2050. So, local authorities must emphasise the health, social and economic benefits of transition.

Robust Data sits under our Governance heading, urging councils to secure access to data about local sources of greenhouse emissions, which will in turn assist in setting local carbon baselines, realistic targets for achieving net zero and establishing budgets. Strong Partnerships focuses on bringing together public and private sectors and all the benefits cross-sector interactions can bring. And finally, Just Transition, which focuses on the need for careful management, to avoid leaving communities, people and assets ‘stranded’. Proper handling could generate immense benefits, with the low carbon economy potentially growing by 11 per cent between 2015 and 2030.

ENGIE has sets its sights on the public sector because we believe this is one of the most critical ways in which we can help make a difference. We welcome further discussion with our fellow UKBCSD members, to explore how we might collaborate.

ENGIE’s report : “How to solve a problem like…net zero. A guide for local authorities” is available to download HERE