Ed Balls warns ‘quick wins’ are damaging green investment

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has led calls today to banish "government short-termism" from climate change policies which he argues is undermining investment in the UK's environmental sector.

Balls, who was speaking at the EEF’s national manufacturing conference in London this morning, drew heavily on the findings of an Labour Party commissioned report published today which examines the barriers and opportunities to sustained economic growth.

The independent review, led by Sir George Cox, represents the first serious official thinking from the party on how to address short-termism both within government and business.

The findings conclude that pressure to deliver quick results not only curtails ambition, but disincentives investment in research and innovation, recruitment and skills. It warns that the long-term consequences of this will make the UK less competitive in an international arena.

Balls illustrated this by talking about the Coalition’s environmental policies on energy and flood defences, strategies which he said lacked long-term vision and consistency.

“The Government doesn’t seem to have a credible energy policy – it is so discouraging to see companies put investment on hold until the Government can come up with a proper plan,” he told delegates.

“If you look at energy or flood defences, not only is there no consensus, but it feels as though politics has walked away from consensus. These [strategies] require 20 to 25 year plans … people will invest elsewhere,” he warned.

Echoing this view was Siemens UK CEO Roland Aurich who urged ministers to create a greater level of certainty to encourage more investment into Britain.

“We need a clear policy framework for energy supply … it’s getting more certain, but this is about securing long-term investment. If a policy framework doesn’t allow us to predict how the future might look beyond five years from now, then it is uncertain,” he told delegates

While Aurich acknowledged that the UK was “staying attractive” investment-wise for Siemens, he added that this could change in the lead up to the next General Election.

“We need to make sure that politicians are walking the talk. Use early agreements in the Energy Bill to get things going – if government can showcase clear signs here, that will trigger investment into the UK market.”

Maxine Perella

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