Paul Sheerin: Homegrown solutions to the climate crisis must be


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The second half of December, like most of us, I suspect, is a time to reflect on the ups and downs of the nearly gone year and look forward to the opportunities and challenges of the year ahead.

The one I wanted to be clear about this year’s uncertainties was Brexit – after all, it’s been four and a half years and we’re 10 days away from what we’ve been led to think will be the final, final, final deadline this time around.

So I’m going to start elsewhere as I look forward, where there can be hope that a road to recovery is not only feasible, but probable.

I can’t help but feel optimistic when I consider the efforts that teams of scientists and technicians working around the world would have made to produce Covid19 vaccines in 10 months, which usually could have taken several years, working in a sector that relies on science and technology.

Six of these vaccines that have been produced are now approved by countries, and

It follows a number of others in different stages of growth. Production teams are rising to the task of ramping up large-scale production for a product that did not even exist a few months ago, allowing complicated mass vaccine logistics and, crucially, a potential relaxation of restrictions that are vital to public health but highly detrimental to our economy.

The recovery from this recession is likely to be different from all others in many parts of the economy, particularly engineering and manufacturing, in ways that many would consider a Covid-19 unintended bonus.

The emphasis on climate change and the steps that will get us to net zero, decarbonization or a green economy has never been more pronounced, and that’s before the building momentum that will come from COP26, which looks very likely to be postponed in Glasgow next November.

The recovery policies of both the UK and Scottish governments concentrate on allowing the transition to technology and capabilities that will help achieve the targets progressively referred to as “sprint” and “race,” reflecting a common sense of urgency.

The Manufacturing Revitalisation Strategy of the Scottish Government, now out for consultation, was designed around the need for decarbonisation, based on input from a broad variety of stakeholders, including us.

In doing so, we are confident that we represent the views of our industry, which has told us that the climate emergency is real and needs an immediate response, and that the infrastructure improvements needed to address this challenge in terms of electricity, transport, food production, in every area of our lives, provide substantial and real opportunities for diversification and development.

What is also required, however, is a change in thinking to optimize the share of domestically developed and generated solutions, especially in government procurement processes, and, frankly, a better willingness to balance risk.

Any well-educated engineer would have heard that you don’t get much done if you don’t make mistakes, and that means that more attention should be expended on learning from those failures and moving on quickly, rather than doing constant post-mortem research and standing at a standstill while the world around us develops.

I cannot ignore Brexit in the final look ahead, as much as you and I would like to.

In recent weeks, I have almost persuaded myself that a trade agreement is almost secondary to the costs and delays that the increased logistical strain of Brexit will bring – deal or no deal – as I have spoken with anxious companies struggling to be ready for the first day of 2021.

There are, of course, customs consequences that can severely hurt many firms, but unlike many aspects of those implications, they are at least prescribed and fairly straightforward. In this regard, the first thing that took me back to my senses was the use of gunboat diplomacy to get the operation off the ground in an already tense v


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