UK firms urged to decarbonise to stay competitive

Key British business sectors will need to step up the pace of decarbonisation or risk losing their grip on the low-carbon market to foreign competition, a report has today (29 November) warned.

Published by CAFOD, Chrisitian Aid, RSPB, Green Alliance, Greenpeace and WWF, the study identifies weaknesses which could prevent the UK chemicals, EV, financial and professional services sectors from adapting to the fast-rising global demand for low-carbon goods and services.

The chemicals sector, which contributes 13% of the UK’s manufacturing emissions, could lose its strong export market unless it upgrades to new lower-emitting production techniques, researchers warn.

Meanwhile, Britain’s EV sector is lagging behind other countries, importing more than it exports, and will need to spend more on battery development to keep up, the report claims.

Siemens UK chief executive Jürgen Maier, who is speaking at the launch of the report today, said: “As we respond to the challenges and opportunities of decarbonisation, the bar has been raised even higher.

“The UK has a major challenge to increase productivity as well as reduce carbon emissions. These twin challenges are interlinked.”

‘Real risks’

The report notes that until recently, Britain was the global hub for low-carbon financial services, but other countries such as France now pose a threat to the UK’s dominance. The Government has claimed it wants to be a “global leader” in green finance, but there are concerns about a lack of public and private investment in place to decarbonise the UK economy.

“There are real risks that the City remains wedded to fossil fuels rather than setting the global gold standard for green finance,” Christian Aid’s director of policy Christine Allen said. “That would not be good for Britain or the climate.”

She added: “In future all trade has to be low-carbon. The Paris climate agreement has shifted countries all over the world onto a trajectory of cleaner development, and blown the starting whistle on a race for new the technologies and markets needed to tackle climate change.”

‘On the right course’

The UK’s Industrial Strategy, released on Monday, set out a vision for clean technology and innovation to play a key role in improving the UK’s sluggish productivity rates and boosting the country’s long-term economic prospects.

And through the recently launched Clean Growth Strategy, ministers have pledged large sums of investment into low-carbon solutions such as EV infrastructure, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and energy efficiency measures.

These strategies have set the UK “on the right course”, Allen continued. “Cross-Government alignment is now needed on domestic and international policy, to support UK businesses in building the expertise the world is now demanding.”

George Ogleby

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