Today marks world Earth Day, an annual international event that has been held for over fifty years to demonstrate support for environmental protection and promote positive social action.
Born following the anniversary of a major oil spill in the United States in 1969 – the year American astronauts made their first successful trip to the moon – Earth Day is coordinated by Earthday.org (formerly Earth Day Network) with over one billion people around the world across 193 countries will take part in events, activism, or community action to mark the occasion.
The theme for this year’s Earth Day is Invest in Our Planet and features five primary programmes, including the Great Global Clean-up, sustainable fashion, climate and environmental literacy, the Canopy Project, food and environment, and the Global Earth Challenge.
This year’s Earth Day comes after the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow last November which saw world leaders come together to pledge their commitment to tackling climate change building on the 2015 Paris Accord.
It also follows a damning report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in August 2021 which was described as a “code red” for humanity with climate scientists warning that temperatures globally will climb by two degrees at the end of the century, which will be a catastrophic blow for human life as we know it.
In January 2019, Bradford Council passed a motion declaring a climate emergency in the district and announcing their commitment to implementing a green economy by 2038. The Council have focused on five key areas including energy, transport, living-well, food and stuff, and ‘working with nature’ to capture carbon, build resilience, provide resources, and leave space for nature.
Without urgent mitigation, scientists warn that sea levels will rise, floods, storms, and droughts may be more common, and Britain will experience warmer and wetter summers and milder, dryer winters. This will impact businesses with immediate physical risk and long-term financial risk due to liability and limited availability of resources.
One organisation that is reviewing the impact of climate change on businesses in the district is the Bradford Economic Partnership, an action group that brings together a team of senior leaders from key organisations, namely local businesses, Bradford Council, the University of Bradford, the City Regional Local Enterprise Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce to oversee and drive delivery of strategic direction to support economic development, regeneration and sustainable growth across the city.
Dr Manoj Joshi DL, who was recently appointed as chair of the Bradford Economic Partnership has warned that all businesses should take the impact of climate change on their companies seriously if they have not already done so.
He said: “It is imperative that all businesses in Bradford come to terms with the fact that we are all impacted by climate change and that we all need to contribute to reducing the effects, not only as businesses but people living in the world.
“There is no escaping the impact of climate change. Many businesses and people are already very mindful of their energy consumption and dependence on fossil fuels and are transitioning to renewable energy where possible.
“Also, businesses are reducing consumption by using electric vehicles and modifying lifestyle habits. Businesses must take part in the circular economy, by reducing, recycling, and reusing materials that we have.
“Insulation, draft proofing and using applications to monitor energy consumption is another way of making a small change to mitigate climate change. There are lots and lots of things we can do to reduce the impact of climate change, and no one is exempt from this.”
Of “critical importance” to the Council in their climate change targets, is the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) which will see all non-compliant taxis, vans, Large Good Vehicles (LGV) and Heavy Good Vehicles charged for driving into Bradford city centre, stretching across Manningham and up to Shipley, to reduce the number of older carbon-emitting vehicles on the roads and promote carbon-neutral electric cars.
The implementation of the CAZ is expected to contribute to a reduction of 150,000t of CO2 emissions through the lifetime of the investment. However, the plans have been heavily criticised by business owners, taxi drivers, local councillors and MP for Keighley and Ilkley Robbie Moore (Cons) alike for further hitting workers who are already feeling the pinch due to the cost-of-living crisis.
Dr Joshi believes that pollutants in the air is a problem but reducing impact must be done slowly. He added: “The CAZ is one factor in reducing the impacts of climate change in the district. There is a concentration of pollutants in Bradford and whether it is business-related or not, we have to try and mitigate this.
“However, it has to be done gradually and not drastically enforced or imposed upon. I believe we all have to make contributions in any way we can.
“Businesses are already impacted by climate change, many industries such as the transportation and logistics industries are already facing the effects. It is also about minimising costs and managing adaptations whether it be through making sound financial decisions or human resource or product management decisions.
“It may not be viable for businesses to make these changes immediately, but it is why we are asking for Government support to help implement the changes we need to make whether it be through grants, subsidies, or tax breaks.; there should be assistance where required.
“At the Bradford Economic Partnership, we are addressing all aspects of sustainable development, sustainable recovery, and taking advantage of the circular economy.”
For Saeeda Ahmed, founder of Education Partnerships UK and a leader in the international Halal economy, key entities such as the Government play a major role in getting businesses to take a “mindful approach” in adapting sustainable policies and being climate change aware.
Ms Ahmed said: “For too long, as a society and an economy, we have taken a lazy approach to the environment. As Asian businesses, people are not aware or have been informed about the detrimental effects of climate change.
“There is also cultural context, do businesses have the ability to gain knowledge about how to do things differently? We need to move away from the grab-and-go culture to being more considerate and looking at the long term.
“For some businesses, it will be viable to make these changes in the short term, and for others, more substantial investments will need to be made.
“The alternatives are there but it might not be cost-effective to make the change yet. Key entities such as the Government can provide grants, but it is about making businesses fully aware of what is out there and being able to demonstrate that there is a business benefit to doing the right thing for the environment, as well.”
Asian Standard has reached out to Bradford Council for a comment. Check back regularly for an update.