Is it really happening?!

Way back in May 2007, before all the bank failings, PM expense rows, and Brittian’s Got Talent outcomes, the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) legislation was enacted in the UK.

With a very innocuous-sounding name, it laid out a very far-reaching agenda by creating a cap and trade system for large non-energy-intensive businesses and government bodies. This includes around 20,000 organizations such as hospitals, schools, banks, department stores, and supermarkets. The goal and likely result is to drive organizational awareness of carbon and transform decision-making in those organizations that aren’t part of the EU ETS.

When this was announced, I remember being amazed at the ambition of such a project. The plan would, it seemed, make carbon a real mainstream topic in the UK. However, like almost all things legislative, the plan wasn’t set to come into effect until, light-years into the future, 2010, so I along with pretty much everyone else forgot about it. As proof, I can tell you that over the past year I have interviewed over 40 Planning and Finance Directors in companies that are required to participate in the CRC about the topics of climate change and sustainability and less than a handful mentioned it!

But tonight, after having been perhaps a bit out of touch with the day to day concerns of many businesses, I attended an Aldersgate Report release filled with company representatives to find that nobody could stop talking about CRC. In 5 out of 5 speeches it came up by name! What’s more, the five lawyers I met afterwards (typically, there are less lawyers at these things) all said that CRC was their clients’ main concern these days. It is their main concern because the participants are formally notified of their involvement at the end of the month, and in just 8 more months, they begin paying £14/ton of carbon.

Walking home tonight, I had the entirely new feeling that real actions on climate change real substantive and mainstream changes are finally within reaching distance. All too often I get frustrated by drawn out timetables, long planning stages, and more and more promises. But tonight I was given a reminder that eventually the debate can begin to kick into action. Hopefully much much more is soon to come.