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  • by Karma Loveday

Water leaders join big business call on prime minister to prioritise climate and nature emergencies

Water company and other water sector leaders were among 116 business signatories to a letter issued last week to prime minister, Liz Truss, calling for her new government to build economic resilience through delivering net zero emissions and restoring nature.

Anglian Water chief executive, Peter Simpson, and Thames Water chief executive, Sarah Bentley, were joined by MOSL chief executive, Sarah McMath, and Tideway chief executive, Andy Mitchell, in endorsing the letter, from a dedicated water sector perspective. Other signatories with major water interests included Nigel Tonks, sustainable development director UKIMEA, Arup; Mike McNicholas, managing director Infrastructure UK & Europe, Atkins; and Andy Bord, chief executive of Flood Re. They were joined by leaders of many others who work in the water sector, including from consultancies and financiers.

The letter affirmed the signatories support for the UK’s climate and nature targets, and called for policy support. It said: “For us to play our part, we need a robust plan from government on how to deliver these targets, both in the short and long term. This will require delivery mechanisms to be strengthened across the whole of government, including in areas such as planning, building regulations and agriculture.”

The letter called on Truss to prioritise policies address the cost of living crisis as part of a robust net zero strategy, through measures including: the accelerated rollout of low-cost clean energy, energy efficiency and industrial decarbonisation. It said such actions would position the UK as a leader in clean growth while reducing energy bills (by 7% by 2025 and 50% by 2035), yielding a £46bn return and creating 215,000 jobs.

It continued: "At the same time, restoring nature through a comprehensive environmental improvement plan, a strong national adaptation plan, and setting ambitious long-term targets will help build the UK’s resilience and support the economy by reducing threats to food security and the economic and social damage of climate impacts. Official figures show that nature represents an asset of around £1.2tn in its value to the UK economy. The economic loss from flooding over winter in 2019/2020 was estimated to be £333m, with this year’s long period of hot weather and resultant drought likely to have a similar economic impact.”

The letter concluded: “We strongly believe that prioritising policies that accelerate the clean energy transition and create positive impact on nature will increase our resilience, spur investment to support economic growth, create jobs and level up.”

The call came as the government said it would lift the moratorium on fracking as part of its package to tackle the energy crisis.

The 116 signatory organisations employ 425,000 people and have a collective market capitalisation in excess of £1.8trillion. They were coordinated by the UK Business Group Alliance for Net Zero led by the UK Corporate Leaders Group convened by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

They joined voices including 29 MPs and peers from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Environment who have urged Truss to recommit to net zero and push forward with measures that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help to bring down energy bills.


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