Reference number: YH15 25 February 2004 THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE By Denise Wilson, Federation of Small Businesses Policy Development Officer As all those running a small business know, there is a huge range of issues - both large and small - which must be tackled every day. Among these, none comes bigger than the environment - and the climate change demonstrated by extreme weather conditions including strong gales, heavy rainfall and warmer summers. The record-breaking summer of 2003 saw scores of deaths across Europe and this year has an early spring with daffodils blooming in February. The global climate warmed by 0.6 per cent during the last century and experts predict hotter, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters. If no action is taken, the current rate of warming will be greater than at any time since the last Ice Age. If this continues unchecked it is likely to have far reaching effects on all aspects of our environment, economy, society and health. In the UK and Europe, temperatures could rise by a further three per cent by the end of the century. Rainfall is already increasing as predicted – having a dramatic effect on areas, like parts of Calderdale, which are prone to flooding. The worst effects of climate change can be avoided if greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are stabilised rather than increased. It is clear that far more must be done to address this than is currently the case. A significant nine per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions come from commerce and industry with a staggering 18 per cent attributed to road transport. The activities requiring the energy which increases greenhouse gases - heating, lighting, transport, communications and industrial processing - are integral to businesses in Halifax just as much as the rest of the UK and the wider world. We all expect affordable, safe and environmentally-sustainable energy to be available when we want it. Small businesses, by their very nature, may not individually have a big impact, but collectively they are a huge part of the commercial landscape of every town and city. There are several practical, achievable, actions which can ensure that the vital resources we need are available for our descendants. The following are provided as guidance for small businesses: · Use renewable materials wherever possible · Review waste handling procedures · Build emission reduction clauses into external contracts · Assess energy output · Review transport policies. Information, advice programmes and resources are available to small businesses to demonstrate that waste minimisation methods deliver business savings and environmental benefits. Many small businesses also pay the government’s newly-introduced Climate Change Levy (CCL) – an energy tax aimed at reducing consumption and contributing to the country’s part in reducing global warming. Income from this levy, which totals about £1bn a year, is recycled back to employers as reduced National Insurance payments. Reviewing your current energy output may reduce the impact of the CCL and generate savings. If the small business sector acts now in the ultimate challenge for our future, we can all help secure better environmental circumstances for the generations that follow us.