UK reaping benefits of going green

31st August 2012


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  • Mitigation ,
  • Renewable ,
  • Business & Industry ,
  • Central government

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IEMA

Increasing numbers of green jobs and low-carbon exports are proof that the transition to a green economy is already having a positive effect, says think tank

In a report compiling data from the business department, the CBI, the Office for National Statistics and DECC, the Green Alliance concludes that the UK is already reaping the economic benefits of focusing on low-carbon goods and services, with green jobs nearing the million mark in 2010/11 and green-sector growth far outstripping the rest of the economy.

In 2010, according to the think tank’s analysis, while the UK economy continued to decline overall, the country’s green sectors grew by more than 10%. In 2014, it predicts, green growth will reach 40%, while the rest of the economy is unlikely to hit 5%.

“Quietly and without fanfare, green business has become a UK success story,” states the report. “We are often told of the benefits that come from creating a greener economy. It is now clear that we don’t need to wait for these benefits. The UK has moved and we are seeing the advantage.”

As well as seeing employment in green sectors surpass that of sectors, such as motoring manufacture and telecommunications, the report highlights the boost the economy is receiving from exporting low-carbon products and services. In 2011/11, for example, the UK exported 40% more green goods than it imported.

Government figures quoted in report confirm that both established economies, such as the US and Germany, and developing countries including India, Brazil and China, all bought more green goods from the UK than they sold. China, for example, imported £794 million of green goods from the UK, but only exported £464 million.

According to the Green Alliance, the UK has also established itself as the “green financing capital of the world”, with one-third of all global investment deals made for renewable energy during 2007–12 receiving legal and financial advice from the UK.

Long-term targets and market incentives, such as the legally-binding carbon budgets, are behind the UK’s success, according the report, providing the policy certainty needed to allow businesses to invest in low-carbon alternatives.

“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,” the report states.

Despite the positive tone, Peter Davies, the sustainable futures commissioner for the Welsh assembly, argued that the report revealed that Wales was not yet taking full advantage of its natural resources, particularly in terms of tidal power, to meet its green economic potential.

"Really Wales should be seen to be a place where low-carbon sector can locate and grow because it's got favourable conditions,” he said. "I don't think at this point we are necessarily recognised and identified as being the go-to location.”

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