Across the world, governments and businesses are battling the financial crisis. The environment cannot be a casualty of that battle. Tough times should not be an excuse for ignoring the imperative to go green.

Here in the UK, I want Government and business to work together to lay the foundations of a new, green economy.

I want to see the need to cut costs driving action on resource efficiency. A recent Defra report shows British business could save over £23 billion a year by making more efficient use of energy, materials and water. At the same time they are strengthening their brands and helping to secure a healthy and bountiful natural environment in the years to come.

I also want our low carbon and environmental sector to fulfil its export potential and become world leaders in this market. And I want our entire business sector to embrace renewable energy and clean technologies.

There are lots of examples of businesses both growing and greening. Big retailers M&S and B&Q have both embraced sustainability and are reaping the rewards. In the financial sector, Aviva boosted its profits last year while cutting its carbon footprint by five percent. PepsiCo has lowered the carbon footprint of its Walkers crisps business by seven percent, and saved over £400,000 in the process.

To support and stimulate this move to green, Government’s primary task is to set out a clear and credible long term vision for the environment, reducing uncertainty and encouraging investment in green technology and infrastructure.

Our partnership document ‘Enabling the Transition to a Green Economy – Government and Business Working together’ gives clarity on policy direction for the green economy.

Our Natural Environment White Paper highlights the importance of natural capital to economic growth, and sets out plans for a Natural Capital Committee to provide advice on the state of our ecosystems and the resources they supply.

We are going to create a Resource Security Action Plan, to help businesses manage supply chain risks and encourage better use of materials.

The Government is also determined to show international leadership.

We are working with EU colleagues to make sure the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe complements our work at home and support the needs of UK business.

Beyond Europe, we are working to reduce biodiversity loss and secure agreement on agriculture, forestry and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. All of this work will feed into our ambitions for Rio+20 next year.

I attended a preparatory ministerial meeting for this crucial world summit in Delhi a month ago. There everyone agreed it’s not a wordy communiqué we need, but deliverable outcomes on food and energy security and resource efficiency.

This political will to must be harnessed to achieve concrete actions for all nations, all sectors and all communities.

The business sector has a vital role to play here. Politicians need the expertise, insight and ideas of business leaders in order to turn political will into practical policy actions.

Business leaders can also help spread the message, nationally and locally, along supply chains, and to customers, to make sure the transition to a green economy is embraced, and that the UK is ready to grasp the opportunities emerging in both the developed and developing world.

This financial crisis must be weathered. But we all need to recognise the opportunity it offers: the opportunity to rethink our economy, and win the argument for making growth green.

View the National Environment White Paper here and the Green Economy Roadmap here

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