Greening the economy is not a “nice to have”
Conservative MP Laura Sandys argues that low carbon growth is the only game in town.
This post was first published on BusinessGreen.
There are few terms in today’s industrial dictionary that are so loose, so ill-defined, as the term “The Green Economy”. Green jobs might have green outcomes, but not necessarily green functions. From the heavy engineering behind the construction of wind farms, to the white coats in universities perfecting smart metering technology, to those who will install the Green Deal – all of these job opportunities comprise part of the Green Economy.
And for those who think transitioning to a green economy is a gamble or a pursuit for more bountiful times, we must be clear that it is not a niche market. Already, it represents a significant part of the UK economy securing more jobs than sectors such as ICT, finance and insurance, and the motor trade. It is a growth sector – low carbon and environmental goods and services grew by 4.6 per cent in 2009/10.
Escaping the old profligate model
But the green economy must permeate beyond the confines of the energy sector. We need to re-engineer our economic model. With a 53 per cent increase in energy consumption forecast by 2035, those who are commercially savvy will recognise that in a resource poor future, we cannot be captured by a profligate economic model from the past.
Over the last 30 years, businesses have had to manage energy costs that have risen by 120 per cent above inflation. Any country that is serious about future economic competitiveness will ensure that they limit their reliance on fluctuating, politicised energy imports. Even the Governor of the Bank of England has acknowledged that corporate or national exposure to fossil fuels could be considered a risk to financial security. Greening the economy is not a “nice to have” but a total necessity.
Government with foresight
The green economy, however, will not be achieved through one set of regulations or one Act of Parliament. To flourish, the green economy requires three core elements: smart consumers; smarter businesses; and Governments with real foresight.
Consumers are already being smart – they are reducing their energy consumption significantly, making low cost decisions that are reducing the use of finite resources and soon consumers up and down the country will be exposed to in home innovation through smart meters. But we have a challenge. Business has a challenge. And that is to further promote green products with much more enthusiastic communications about modernity, cutting edge, innovation, and putting the consumer in control. Consumer products and services need to be “sold”. Companies need to start thinking how they can develop green brands that are innovative, brighter modern and says future – not products that just cry out utility!
But while the majority of “change” will emanate from private sector driven innovation, Government does need to be the chief cheerleader in greening the UK’s economy.
We must back renewables, substitutes and re-engineering. Similar to the support delivered to graphene, we should be supporting synthetic rare earth development and renewable replacements for minerals. Many key industrial processes could be reengineered away from high intensive energy consumption.
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