Business and policy leaders call for low-carbon Industrial Strategy

A number of business and political leaders, including former Business Secretary Vince Cable, have today (5 April) called on the Government to embed low-carbon principles into the new Industrial Strategy, in a report released by the Green Alliance.

Senior Liberal Democrat politician Cable noted the importance for the UK to maintain its climate change commitments in the face of growing climate scepticism in the US. He criticised a “rowing back” of Government support for renewables such as onshore wind and solar, citing the Industrial Strategy as an opportunity to reassert support for low-carbon technologies.

Cable, who launched the Green Investment Bank (GIB) during the coalition Government, said that the mooted privatisation of the institution could have a harmful effect on its green portfolio.

“The context for the new industrial strategy looks very different and there is a rowing back from some of these objectives,” Cable said. “New onshore wind has been effectively blocked, though it is now commercially competitive. Subsidy cuts and a lack of long-term targets have seriously dented the development of solar and offshore wind, though their costs are falling rapidly.

“Privatisation will mean the Government can no longer be sure the GIB’s patient capital or green mission will be around for the long-term.”

The impact of Brexit on environmental protections was highlighted as a concern by Cable, who referenced Defra Secretary Leadsom’s admission that a third of EU green regulations “won’t be easy to transpose”.

Last week’s white paper for the Great Repeal Bill contained a pledge to preserve the whole body of EU environmental law immediately after the UK’s departure to provide “maximum certainty” for businesses. However, green groups criticised the Government for failing to guarantee that existing environmental laws will be maintained as primary legislation post-Brexit.

Resource productivity

Today’s Green Alliance report contained a collection of essays including contributions from Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI, and Professor Paul Ekins, director of the Institute of Sustainable Resources at UCL.


Ekins focused on the UK’s resource efficiency, an area of competency he deemed to have “diminished in recent governments”. He welcomed the Industrial Strategy green paper’s reference to resource efficiency, but warned about the need to rekindle policy areas such as landfill taxation and extended producer responsibility.

Ekins said: “One remedy would be for BEIS and the Treasury to give as much attention to resource productivity as they do to labour productivity, to signal that resource efficiency should be a key consideration across all government policy. That really would signal seriousness of intent to make the UK more competitive by adding more value to the materials which overwhelmingly the UK has to buy from abroad.”

‘Clear and credible plan’

CBI boss Fairbairn praised the Industrial Strategy green paper for identifying low-cost energy and clean growth as a “critical part of the future”, ahead of the Government’s proposed Clean Growth Plan to meet the UK’s carbon targets.

CBI recently released a report which outlined how a change in Government mind-set can help the UK to reduce emissions by 57% by 2032. The paper concluded that all Government departments, along with business, will need to work together to maximise the opportunity of long-term decarbonisation.

In today’s Green Alliance report, Fairbairn said: “Decarbonising our own economy and finding opportunities for growth are two sides of the same coin. But achieving these outcomes will require a clear and credible plan against which businesses can innovate and invest: this is what the clean growth plan should provide.

“With industry already making great strides, the plan needs to go with the grain of the market and look at what action can be taken across different parts of the economy to support further investment; identifying where we can build on significant progress already made, and where new thinking is needed.”

George Ogleby

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