The Green Economy: a UK success story
Alastair Harper describes how analysis by Green Alliance has found that the Green Economy is already delivering benefits to the UK economy, despite the broader slow-down and widespread cautious expectations for the low carbon and green sectors, and argues that we must celebrate its success to further encourage green business.
In an oddly moralising way, many people seem to feel that something that does good can’t also bring economic benefits.
But it does. At Green Alliance we have conducted an extensive analysis of the data surrounding the green economy. According to government data (pdf), last year we exported £121 million more green goods and services to Germany than we imported from them, as well as £183 million more to India and £330 million more to China. We now export more green products and services to our competitors than we import from them, and we have become the green financing capital of the world.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills tots up almost twice as many low carbon and environmental jobs – just under a million – than we have in motor trades.
Benefitting from the Green Economy – now
We are often told of the benefits that come from creating a greener economy and the advantage that will come from being a first mover. It is now clear that we don’t need to wait for these benefits. The UK has moved and we are seeing the advantage.
Our low carbon and environmental sector has shown that it’s not just for the good times, but that it has continued to grow steadily even whilst broader economic activity slows.
Market incentives and investor confidence
This is the outcome of setting ambitious environmental targets and creating long term market incentives for green goods and services. It has given the private sector confidence to invest billions of pounds in these markets.
In contrast, the UK’s high carbon infrastructure projects now have much lower leverage on private capital and are being propped up by greater proportions of public spending. According to the Treasury, in this financial year alone 88% of our top 20 infrastructure projects are low carbon, and are worth £23 billion, compared to just £3.1 billion for high carbon projects. Some 63% of this represents entirely private sector money. If you include what Treasury defines as public/private then the figure leaps to 94%. By contrast, our high-carbon spend for this year was 61% dependant on the public purse.
A UK success story
Quietly and without fanfare, green business has become a UK success story, at home and abroad. This success should be celebrated. With greater public recognition and stronger confidence green businesses can help secure a faster and more resilient economic recovery.
However, some still feel that we should not continue to promote this kind of economy and would prefer to incentivise a reliance on fossil fuels. Even the most optimistic commentators acknowledge that a reliance on gas will leave us dependent on imports in a seller’s market. In fact, the Office for National Statistics sees this as key to why we’re still doing so badly.
Green Alliance argues that we can’t, as a nation, afford such a compromised infrastructure strategy, the equivalent of Disraeli ripping out train tracks because they threaten canals. We should follow what we need, not what we needed, or we risk condemning this country to a policy of “Who needs the future when we have had the past?”
- Green economy: a UK success story: Green Alliance report
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