Our Low Carbon and Environment Team report from the Harrogate Net Zero Business Conference.
As the world geared up for what some are calling the world’s “last best hope” to avoid the worst effects of climate change, businesses from across Yorkshire headed to Harrogate for the first Harrogate Net Zero Business Conference. Organised by Harrogate District Climate Change Coalition and supported by PlanetMark, the conference aimed to bring together businesses from the cutting edge of climate innovation with those who want to make more climate-friendly decisions but don’t know where to start.
The event was the perfect place to kick off Circular Yorkshire Week. Members of the Y&NY LEP’s Low Carbon and Environment Team and the Growth Hub turned up to talk circular economy and encourage attendees to think up pledges for Circular Yorkshire Week.
A Greener, Fairer and Stronger future
Alongside the extensive exhibition, the event boasted a jam-packed agenda, kicked off by the Bishop of Ripon, who welcomed the audience with a thought-provoking question – what will your legacy be? Professor Piers Forster from the University of Leeds provided some sobering climate science statistics and left us with the rallying cry that the climate revolution opens up huge opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship, and to build much healthier, happier communities – let’s get on with it!
Andrew Griffiths from event co-sponsor PlanetMark took the audience through a net zero masterclass that broke down the complexities of trying to decarbonise your business and busted some carbon jargon, including a quiz at the end (which you’ll be glad to know the LEP team did very well on!).
Good for business, good for the planet
We then got into the Carbon Stories section, where businesses from Harrogate and the wider Yorkshire area showcased their net zero journeys so far. Some were from businesses whose product was a low-carbon enabler for other businesses, such as Chameleon Technology’s machine learning-enabled smart meters, Techbuyer’s insightful talk about how refurbishing tech and better server management can save businesses money and tonnes of carbon, and Make Impact’s introduction to B Corps and how to get certified.
Other larger organisations showcased how they’re reducing their own carbon footprint and that of their supply chains and communities. Transdev highlighted the ever-increasing popularity of their luxury electric buses, and Bettys and Taylors discussed how planting 5 million trees has made a positive difference to tea and coffee farmers in Kenya. Yorkshire Water showed how sensors and big data can lead to simple changes that have massive impact, and Pete Stevens finished his talk by remarking that “we’ve got to break some rules to do this at the pace of change we need”.
Healthier and happier communities
We also heard from our Low Carbon and Circular Economy Lead Katie Thomas, introducing Circular Yorkshire Week and the newly launched Circular Towns Guide, which aims to foster healthier and happier communities. Natural capital champions at the Nidderdale AONB and the Woodmeadows Trust showed that carbon capture can come hand in hand with agricultural businesses, citizen science and biodiversity gains. A natural capital assessment of the woodmeadow at Riccall in North Yorkshire shows the site is bringing in benefits of £40,000 per year, compared to £6,000 in management costs!
Three things we learned on the day:
1. Video meetings emit 90% more carbon than audio ones;
2. Simple solutions can make a big difference, like paints that suck up carbon rather than emit nasty volatile organic compounds;
3. “Carbon offsetting” covers avoidance (e.g. investing in renewable energy generation) as well as removal (e.g. planning trees and restoring peatland) – be careful to choose the one that has the most impact for you and your business!
Access Circular Yorkshire Week On Demand here.