Lord Smith: UK economy should shift to sustainability

A shift to a low-carbon economy offers UK businesses their best hope of leading the world again, the chairman of the Environment Agency has said.

Lord Chris Smith warned that the UK must not return to business as usual when the economy emerges from the recession, but must make a “historic shift” towards sustainability.

Speaking at the Royal Society of Arts, in London, Lord Smith said the climate crisis is the most serious and difficult challenge facing the country.

He urged politicians to recognise that it is so important that it should override political differences within and between nations across the world.

“Copenhagen may, in truth be our last and only chance, globally, to get this right,” he said.

“And Britain has to be one of those nations showing a lead, being an example, and helping to create the international consensus about the solutions that will be needed.”

He said Government should ensure that financing the transition to a low-carbon global economy was on the agenda at the G20 meeting, which will be held in London in spring.

Government must also lead by example, and make it easier for the public to become more energy efficient, he told the RSA.

The Environment Agency’s role will be to become “an enabler organisation” he said, and make it easier for others to make the right environmental choices.

“Increasingly, we have to see ourselves as a facilitator as well as a regulator,” Lord Smith said.

Referring to his speech to the Environment Agency conference, where he called for a “Green New Deal” (see related story), he said the UK needed to decarbonise electricity production by 2030, largely by developing carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Employees in recession-hit manufacturing sectors such as construction, car manufacturing and offshore engineering could be retrained to work in the environmental industries, he added.

Kate Martin

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie