CBI: Progress slow on climate change

The head of the CBI, director-general Richard Lambert, expressed his disappointment with the lack of advances on issues of climate change for UK businesses.

He was speaking at the opening of the CBI Climate Change Summit, which took place in London yesterday (November 18).

He said the environment had slipped down the agenda due to the recession, the change of government, and therefore the change in policy and the slow take up of the agenda by consumers.

He said: “Here in the UK, the nuclear programme is about a year behind where we had hoped it would be back in 2007, and we are very little further forward in building the gas storage capacity that our economy so urgently needs.

“Those who feared that green taxes would simply turn into another kind of stealth tax have had their prejudices amply confirmed by the way the Carbon Reduction Commitment has been converted, without consultation, into just another source of revenue for the Treasury.

“Perhaps most worrying of all, the needle on the dial of consumer behaviour has scarcely shifted at all over the three year period, either in the UK or internationally.”

There were some positives, however, he said. Emerging economies have become more engaged in the global conversation and there have been gas technological breakthroughs.

Private sector investment had a major role in the future economy and rebuilding prosperity, he said and the environment had become central to business strategy. Business, he said, understood the financial benefits of savings through energy efficiency.

But, he said, the UK was in danger of losing out to emerging economies if the government did not act to increase incentives, clarity and consistency of the policy framework. This message needed to be communicated to the public.

He called for the Green Investment Bank to have a greater impact and was sceptical about the effectiveness of the Green Deal.

He said: “The proposed green investment bank – which will be pretty much irrelevant if it just turns out to be a fund with a billion or two to spend, but which could have a real impact if it was treated as the cornerstone of a proper infrastructure bank.

On the Green Deal, he said: “A nice idea in theory, but fraught with uncertainty about the appropriate scale of the scheme, about who is going to pay for it, and about how much demand there will be from homeowners in the first place.

Business would move forward on green issues, he said, but the government needed to support their efforts with a clear policy framework.

He said: “Companies don’t have to wait for political leadership when they set about designing new products, or launching new services for the low carbon world.

“But when it comes to major capital projects, they need the assurance that policies are going to be consistent and clear, and they need certainty about the regimes under which they are going to operate.”

Alison Brown

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