Published on February 6th, 2014 |
by Vittorio Trevitt
Image © www.theoregongreenexpo.com
Investing in the green economy: a blueprint for future prosperity
At a time of great economic uncertainty, it is vital to look for alternatives that offer the creation of new job opportunities and provide the basis for long-term economic prosperity. One such alternative is the green economy, which emphasises growth in income and employment by public and private investments that reduce environmental risks, together with the encouragement of resource and energy efficiency and equitable growth through social investments and the creation of greater employment opportunities. Such a model is a worthy one to build, due to its emphasis on sustainable economic development for the benefit of members of society.
Despite its promises to be the “greenest government ever,” the Coalition has failed to take up the challenge of promoting the green economy as a major source of economic prosperity, despite the fact that the green economy is worth more than £120 billion and has supplied a third of the country’s recent economic growth. Criticisms have been levelled against the government’s failure to offer a long-term strategy while focusing too heavily on voluntary action, as a result of its market-led approach that places no new requirements on business. In addition, there is a sense that the Treasury views the environment as a barrier to economic development.
In its 2013 budget, the Coalition included measures that demonstrate its failure to take the green economy seriously. No support was offered for renewable energy, while the budget instead exempted some energy-intensive firms from the Climate Change Levy, a measure that exists to compel industries to use energy more frugally. The budget could have been used to develop a clear regulatory framework for encouraging the development of the green economy by driving investment and export opportunities for low carbon technologies.
The development of the green economy would provide a range of environmental, energy security and economic benefits for the United Kingdom. According to the Environmental Audit Committee, investment in a green economy could create more jobs overall than via the same investment in the high-carbon economy, while investing in renewable sources of energy would increase Britain’s energy security by reducing the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels. Britain should follow the example of Norway, which has doubled a carbon tax on its North Sea oil industry and used the proceeds to tackle climate change and fund the country’s transition from an oil economy to one based on renewable energy.
The Coalition should also consider setting up a state bank similar to the one in Germany, which has enabled firms to transform that country into a world leader in low-carbon technologies due to the bank’s support for energy efficiency programmes. This would provide a high level of capital investment for industry to invest in the development of wind turbines, with around 6,500 turbines needed to be installed over the next decade to spur both manufacturing growth and the development of the green economy.
There therefore exists a strong case for the development of the green economy not only as a promoter of environmental sustainability, but as an engine for long-term industrial growth. It is time for the Coalition Government to abandon its lackadaisical approach to green growth and seize the opportunity to formulate a new strategy based on the creation of a green economic model with the promises of sustainable growth and the delivery of tangible economic benefits for all.
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