UK Government must ‘ride’ low-carbon wave or be ‘swept away’

The UK is "going backwards" on low-carbon energy policies and risks losing its international competitive edge unless the Government restores domestic confidence through "coherent, consistent policy" that champions low-carbon businesses, according to six of the UK's leading development and environment organisations.

Analysis from UK Cafod, Christian Aid, Green Alliance, Greenpeace, RSPB and WWF predicted that investment in low-carbon generation, energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage could rise to over $1.9trn by 2030, if world governments are serious about keeping global warming within the two degrees set during the Paris Agreement.

The coalition suggested that the UK’s previously leading position in these global markets is under severe threat from Government energy U-turns which have reduced confidence in the UK’s domestic low-carbon industries and negatively impacted on its global ranking and market share.

Green Alliance director Matthew Spencer said: “World markets are becoming low-carbon faster than anyone predicted, partly because of UK diplomatic leadership on carbon reduction. But if the UK wants to maintain its share of international trade in energy services, construction and transport technology it will have to shore up domestic demand.

“British businesses will only maintain their international competitiveness if they have stable home markets for zero carbon buildings, power plant and vehicles.”

‘Confusing messages’

The report highlights concerning evidence that high carbon infrastructure spending has grown from 13% in 2013 to 33% in 2016 while low-carbon spending has been gradually falling. Despite a record-breaking year both globally and nationally, the UK’s renewables sector has suffered from a “Jenga approach” to green policy that has seen Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) slashed and government incentives scrapped.

The alliance concluded that to restore its title as a market leader in low-carbon technologies the Government must position the UK as an expert partner in low-carbon delivery, support low-carbon technologies of the future and maintain its international climate leadership role.

WWF-UK chief executive David Nussbaum said: “Low-carbon growth is the only option if the UK is to meet its emissions targets and retain its position as a leader in the global green economy. Yet some Ministers have sent confusing messages about their commitment to green energy and technologies.

“That’s why it’s vital the government now agrees a strong fifth carbon budget, and backs it up with an emissions reduction plan setting out exactly how we’ll build low-carbon solutions into the DNA of UK Plc.”

‘Turbulent year’

The increasing impact of climate change, consumer choice and new technology has been driving the shift to a low-carbon world, with last year proving to be a record-high for renewable energy installations.

But the new analysis is the latest in a series of reports which suggest that the UK risks missing out on the sizeable economic opportunity of new global investment. Earlier this week, a new report from the Renewable Energy Association (REA) claimed that impressive growth in the renewables industry will be slowed over the coming years due to ‘turbulent’ policy changes.

According to EY, the UK’s ranking in the global renewables market has fallen, from second in 2007, to thirteenth in 2016, due to a series of unexpected green policy U-turns and the on-going uncertainty surrounding the role of renewables in Britain’s energy mix.

Moreover, a major report from the Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECCC) recently warned that the Government is “denting” investor confidence in the renewables market.

George Ogleby

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