Preparing for Durban: the continuing role of manufacturing

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I attended an event at Chatham House to discuss the implications for climate change negotiations and multilateral diplomacy. HE Patricia Espinosa, the Mexican Secretary for Foreign Affairs spoke to delegates about the challenges for the next round of international climate negotiations later this year in Durban, expressing the integral role of innovative technology and low carbon economies to enable sustainable growth.

EEF welcome this support for the role of low carbon technologies. Manufacturing has a crucial role to play in enabling this transition to a low carbon economy and helping the UK Coalition Government to become the ‘greenest Government ever'.

This includes not just ‘industries of the future' but the ‘industries of the past' Chris Huhne seems to think are on their way out. These are the companies that supply the building blocks for low carbon technologies: such as the steel that is used in offshore wind turbines and high-speed rail tracks and the chemicals that are produced for use in insulation and energy efficient lighting. EEF research in our 2010 report ‘Changing the Climate for Manufacturing' shows that for every unit of greenhouse gases emitted by the global chemical industry during its operations, it has helped other to save double that amount through the products and technologies it produces.

We need to move to the low carbon economy in a cost effective manner, this means not just burdening energy intensive industries with extra costs to the point where they are uncompetitive. This is where Ms Espinosa's call for resurgence in multilateralism rang true to me – but in the sense that we need to think about reducing carbon emissions globally. If the US and China and developing countries do not impose the restrictions we have in Europe, we will simply continue to outsource our production – and therefore carbon emissions – to these cheaper to produce in countries.

In Europe we may pat ourselves on the back for our carbon reduction strategies, but until this is tackled in the round, we are simply moving the problem, and unfortunately UK innovation and jobs with it.

EEF will be keenly following the lead up to Durban and developing our position to ensure that the role manufacturing plays in enabling the move to a low carbon economy is given due credit.

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