Peter Simpson

Peter Simpson, chief executive of Anglian Water comments on the Paris Climate Summit. 

This week, Paris is once again at the heart of facing-up to a major global challenge. The consequences of the fight against terrorism were much in evidence on Monday as I joined global political and business leaders in the Capital, this time to urge strong and determined action on another major global threat – the consequences of climate change.

Be in no doubt, the stakes are high, and the east of England will be among the first to feel the consequences if we fail to act. Which is why I wanted to be there in person to help drive home the need for businesses and governments right across the developed and developing world to work together as never before. And I sensed the mood has changed since the last climate change summit in 2009. Then, the focus was much less on when, but if progress could be achieved. Now it is all about doing something positive. Which includes support for the UK position for a legally binding review of countries’ emissions targets every five years.

But it’s when I get home that reality kicks in. In this region, nearly 30 per cent of the land area is below sea level making us vulnerable to rising sea levels; and in some parts, our annual average rainfall is less than many areas of the Middle East. And yet our population is one of the fastest growing in the UK, which puts enormous pressure on resources and focuses minds in my business on the need for long-term investment planning. Which is why we take a 25 year long-term view to make sure we can meet the demand for growth. If more extreme weather patterns continue to impact and if we fail to deal properly with the consequences of climate change, many of our communities will be under threat, as will our water supply and water recycling network. These vital assets must be maintained and renewed to protect millions of families, communities and businesses – as well as our beautiful environment - across the east of England.

Anglian Water is one of the largest users of electricity in our region too, owing to the power we need to treat and recycle water, and pump it around such a geographically flat area. So we are acutely aware of our responsibility to cut carbon. In the last five years we have delivered around 1,000 energy projects, bringing savings of well over £16 million, which has contributed significantly to our success in exceeding our operational carbon target. In 2015 we also reduced capital carbon by 54%, playing our part in how we build, maintain and operate our assets.

It is local commitment and local action like this, including businesses and governments stepping up to the plate by setting and meeting ambitious carbon cutting targets, that will be the real prize to be gained from the Paris Summit.

I was extremely proud to be standing alongside other business leaders and politicians as part of the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change, calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies. And in supporting the call for a global trillion tonne carbon cap which will help keep climate change to less than 2 degrees C – the critical limit scientists agree we must not cross. In practical terms this means all governments setting a goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the century.

This is a region leading by example. Not only because it is in our own self-interest to do so, but because we have some of the best climate change academics and practitioners in the world located here, who are driving ideas, progress and change. And I’m determined to ensure Anglian Water leads by example too – which is why I wanted our experience, our perspective and our own innovative ideas to be heard loud and clear by the decision-makers in Paris this week.

Together, we have the opportunity to do something really positive and impactful to tackle one of the World’s biggest challenges.

Peter Simpson
CEO, Anglian Water Group