Future looks secure for green industry

When both men most likely to be vying for the job of Prime Minister come the next election seem to be fighting to outdo each other when demonstrating their green credentials, it can only be good news for the environmental sector.

For the first time in British history the environmental agenda looks set to be a political battleground of huge importance when it comes to winning the votes of a public increasingly concerned about climate change and its related issues.

Gordon Brown and David Cameron both decided to start their week with rousing speeches on the environment, with Mr Brown calling for a new world order that would take into account the true cost of carbon while the Conservative leader outlined his party’s plans for higher taxes on flights.

Speaking at a meeting hosted by the Green Alliance, the Chancellor told environmentalists that Britain was committed to keeping Europe at the forefront of the fight against climate change and would continue to back the union’s emissions reduction agenda.

He also took the opportunity to have a pop at the Opposition’s position on the EU – a ‘polite but firm’ mild Euro-scepticism.

“Euro-scepticism and continent-wide environmental action are at odds with each other,” he told those attending the gathering.

“A government ambivalent about the UK’s future in Europe and allied to the most reactionary forces in the European Parliament would have no credibility, no influence and no achievements.”

He also reiterated the steps businesses could take to reduce their carbon footprint, starting with improved energy efficiency through to using more clean electricity and even contemplating offsetting.

Mr Cameron, meanwhile, was busy outlining the Tory’s plans at a London conference on the green economy where he enthusiastically promoted the idea of ‘smart’ green taxes which would change public behaviour.

“We need to make carbon reduction as important as the Budget,” he told delegates.

Grasping the nettle of aviation, he said he did not believe flying was wrong, nor should it be stopped, but said something had to be done about its emissions.

“We have had ten years of rising emissions and wasted opportunities,” he said.

“The Chancellor is giving green taxes a bad name. Air Passenger Duty is not directly linked to carbon emissions, and provides no incentives for airlines to use more fuel-efficient aircraft.”

Mr Cameron claimed that new environmental taxes will replace and not add to existing levies.

He said: “We have made clear that any green taxes introduced by the next Conservative Government will be replacement taxes, not new taxes.

“Any rises in green taxation will be compensated by reductions elsewhere – for example in taxation on families. We want to use the tax system to encourage greener behaviour, not to bleed taxpayers dry.”

Both men’s continued efforts to link climate change and the economy in the public mind means prospects for the environmental industries look good.

As new legislation under both men looks likely to lean towards tighter environmental regulation and tougher targets, environmental specialists will find themselves in big demand over coming years, whether they are consultants or those producing the technology needed to help business and the public meet the expectations of Government.

Sam Bond

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