Manufacturing with 2020 vision: Environment and Sustainability
Electric vehicles and water conservation will be at the epicentre of progress for manufacturers over the coming year.
Some dreams take time to come true, especially if they amount to the most profound transformation we have seen since the industrial revolution. As manufacturers adapt and evolve to an ever connected and green(er) world, here are two main trends we can expect to see in 2020.
Don’t hold me now – the rise of electric vehicles
To herald the arrival of electric vehicles may seem surprising - after all, they have been produced and available for many years already. However, both the public and businesses have been rather slow to adopt and embrace the technology. The hope is that this could be about to change, and electric vehicles - and all related infrastructure - are set for a big year in 2020.
The reason for the slow uptake so far is the wholesale shift in consumer attitudes that is required to move people towards adopting electric vehicles, which in this case largely revolves around battery life. The perception remains that electric vehicles have limited - and consequently limiting - range to their batteries, and that charging them is a time-consuming burden for the pace of modern life and therefore inconvenient.
However, this issue is being increasingly addressed. BP recently installed the first ultra-fast charging point in London, one of 400 being fitted across the country over the next two years. These charging points offer 150kW pods – which can supposedly deliver around 100-miles of range in just 10 minutes. There is hope that where industry giants lead the way by focusing on improving charging availability and convenience, consumer attitudes to electric vehicles will change.
Developing batteries with a longer life is a challenge that is spurring innovation. This is a crucial but pricey component of any electric vehicle, and the key to unlocking the potential of this whole concept. If we are to see a breakthrough this year, governments around the world have a key role to play in continuing to encourage the development of the technology. In turn, we could see the combination of innovation, infrastructure and consumer attitudes all quickly align and a radical shift towards the widespread embrace of electric vehicles.
Green is the new black
In 2020, environmental issues will continue to be at the top of everyone’s agenda when it comes to manufacturing. While the aforementioned electric vehicles will have a long-term impact once widely adopted, particularly in reducing the usage of fossil fuels, there are immediate steps that can and should be taken.
Primarily, water conservation will be seen as a crucial issue, in 2020 and beyond. Manufacturing is not unique as an industry in its high-water usage and this needs to be addressed, for business as well as environmental reasons.
It is not cheap to get through the industrial levels of water that manufacturing requires and finding internal methods to recycle will only grow as a priority.
Companies should now be targeting ‘circular innovation’, comprising desirability, viability, feasibility and, crucially, sustainability.
Climate changes have brought increases in extremes, with both water shortages and flooding growing in occurrence. This has left water utilities navigating an unsteady path to transformation; putting a strain on manufacturers, who rely on water for their production lines. The more volatile, and potentially expensive, this is, the more damage it can do to a business, before the ethical and environmental impact of water wastage is even considered.
Sustainability will become a key pillar of manufacturing in 2020, and this can start with water. While the water utilities work to improve their processes, companies individually can make great advances in their water conservation and recycling.
Prasad Satyavolu is Chief Digital Officer of Manufacturing and Logistics at Cognizant
UK must stop blundering into high carbon choices warns CCC
The UK Government must end a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices, according to the Climate Change Committee as it released 200 policy recommendations in a progress to Parliament update.
While the rigour of the Climate Change Act helped bring COP26 to the UK, it is not enough for Ministers to point to the Glasgow summit and hope that this will carry the day with the public, the Committee warns. Leadership is required, detail on the steps the UK will take in the coming years, clarity on tax changes and public spending commitments, as well as active engagement with people and businesses across the country.
"It it is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we have seen in the last 12 months. There are gaps and ambiguities. Climate resilience remains a second-order issue, if it is considered at all. We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices. Our Planning system and other fundamental structures have not been recast to meet our legal and international climate commitments," the update states. "Our message to Government is simple: act quickly – be bold and decisive."
The UK’s record to date is strong in parts, but it has fallen behind on adapting to the changing climate and not yet provided a coherent plan to reduce emissions in the critical decade ahead, according to the Committee.
- Statutory framework for climate The UK has a strong climate framework under the Climate Change Act (2008), with legally-binding emissions targets, a process to integrate climate risks into policy, and a central role for independent evidence-based advice and monitoring. This model has inspired similarclimate legislation across the world.
- Emissions targets The UK has adopted ambitious territorial emissions targets aligned to the Paris Agreement: the Sixth Carbon Budget requires an emissions reduction of 63% from 2019 to 2035, on the way to Net Zero by 2050. These are comprehensive targets covering all greenhouse gases and all sectors, including international aviation and shipping.
- Emissions reduction The UK has a leading record in reducing its own emissions: down by 40% from 1990 to 2019, the largest reduction in the G20, while growing the economy (GDP increased by 78% from 1990 to 2019). The rate of reductions since 2012 (of around 20 MtCO2e annually) is comparable to that needed in the future.
- Climate Risk and Adaptation The UK has undertaken three comprehensive assessments of the climate risks it faces, and the Government has published plans for adapting to those risks. There have been some actions in response, notably in tackling flooding and water scarcity, but overall progress in planning and delivering adaptation is not keeping up with increasing risk. The UK is less prepared for the changing climate now than it was when the previous risk assessment was published five years ago.
- Climate finance The UK has been a strong contributor to international climate finance, having recently doubled its commitment to £11.6 billion in aggregate over 2021/22 to 2025/26. This spend is split between support for cutting emissions and support for adaptation, which is important given significant underfunding of adaptation globally. However, recent cuts to the UK’s overseas aid are undermining these commitments.
In a separate comment, it said the Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies.
Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee said: “The UK is leading in diagnosis but lagging in policy and action. This cannot be put off further. We cannot deliver Net Zero without serious action on adaptation. We need action now, followed by a National Adaptation Programme that must be more ambitious; more comprehensive; and better focussed on implementation than its predecessors, to improve national resilience to climate change.”
Priority recommendations for 2021 include setting out capacity and usage requirements for Energy from Waste consistent with plans to improve recycling and waste prevention, and issue guidance to align local authority waste contracts and planning policy to these targets; develop (with DIT) the option of applying either border carbon tariffs or minimum standards to imports of selected embedded-emission-intense industrial and agricultural products and fuels; and implement a public engagement programme about national adaptation objectives, acceptable levels of risk, desired resilience standards, how to address inequalities, and responsibilities across society.
Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said the report is another reminder that if the UK is to meet its ambitious climate targets there is an urgent need to scale up bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
"As the world’s leading generator and supplier of sustainable bioenergy there is no better place to deliver BECCS at scale than at Drax in the UK. We are ready to invest in and deliver this world-leading green technology, which would support clean growth in the north of England, create tens of thousands of jobs and put the UK at the forefront of combatting climate change."
Drax Group is kickstarting the planning process to build a new underground pumped hydro storage power station – more than doubling the electricity generating capacity at its iconic Cruachan facility in Scotland. The 600MW power station will be located inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – and increase the site’s total capacity to 1.04GW (click here).
Lockdown measures led to a record decrease in UK emissions in 2020 of 13% from the previous year. The largest falls were in aviation (-60%), shipping (-24%) and surface transport (-18%). While some of this change could persist (e.g. business travellers accounted for 15-25% of UK air passengers before the pandemic), much is already rebounding with HGV and van travel back to pre-pandemic levels, while car use, which at one point was down by two-thirds, only 20% below pre-pandemic levels.