We Must Rise to Challenges Set by Obama; GO GREEN - Local Firms Must Step Up Their Environmental Efforts Now the New President Has Vowed to Tackle Climate Change and Energy Consumption

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Byline: By Mary Griffin, ENVIRONMENT REPORTER

THE historic inauguration of Barack Obama may have happened 4,000 miles away but it could affect the way our government, local councils and businesses tackle climate change.

The new president has a bold blueprint for tackling oil dependency and carbon emissions in the US.

And according to Coventrybased environment consultants Climate Change Solutions, our local councils, universities and businesses must now up the ante or find themselves left behind.

President Obama has pledged: to invest EUR150 billion over the next 10 years to support private efforts to build renewable energy products, to join the Kyoto Protocol, cutting US emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, to put one million low-carbon hybrid cars on the road by 2015 - all built in the US, to ensure 25 per cent of America's electricity comes from renewable sources by 2025, and to create five million new greencollar jobs in the process.

But Climate Change Solutions say local firms must now make equally bold plans, or manufacturers will struggle to export products to a low carbon United States.

Managing director Tony McNally said: "It has profound implications for us, for the rest of Britain and for the rest of Europe.

"In his inaugural speech he said it's essential for America to move from imported oil dependency to renewable energy because of both insecurity of supplies and to reduce emissions.

"He mentioned the sun, wind and soil and could also have mentioned the sea.

"Essentially those natural energy sources are where America will look for alternative fuel sources.

"There is a big crisis in the American motor industry and the new government is saying they are prepared to give initial loans on the condition the money is used to produce lowcarbon hybrid vehicles that will sell, rather than gas guzzlers that won't sell.

"This, in line with the production of wind turbines, solar, and domesticscale combined heat and power systems, will create five million new jobs in this growth industry.

"So to export to the American market we in the West Midlands have got to manufacture and sell low carbon technologies including vehicles."

But not everyone agrees.

Jaguar Land Rover spokesperson Mark Foster said: "Where I think Obama's message to the US car manufacturers doesn't fit for us is I think they have a lot of ground to make up.

"The US car market has for a number of years been dominated by SUVs - large petrol engines with a low mileage per gallon and high emissions.

"Toyota Prius sales in the US have been very good and I think a lot of people agree electrification is the way forward in terms of sustainable motoring. However, until we can get the battery technology right we are some way off so we need to continue advancing what we can in terms of existing technologies coupled with other technologies like hybrid."

Manufacturers are already gearing up for a renewable energy revolution in the US, and Europe's low carbon companies - including Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas and German solar electronics firm Schott - are moving in to stake their claim.

Vast swathes of sun-scorched American desert have been earmarked as suitable sites for extensive solar arrays.

Mr McNally said: "This would trigger a massive cycle of production of solar technology that would bring down the global price; 100 square miles could potentially supply electricity for the whole of America."

He added: "The Kyoto targets were set in 1992 but right now only 2 per cent of the UK's energy is from renewable sources, so that shows how slow the process has been. …