What would the ‘greenest Government ever’ do?

Angela SmithBaroness Angela Smith of Basildon is Labour’s Shadow Energy & Climate Change Minister in the House of Lords.

With next week being Budget week, Chancellor George Osborne will not be short of advice – what advice he will take is another matter.

Across the country environmental organisations and investors will be looking for a sign that he understands the need for stability for those who want to invest in the green economy.

The debacle of Feed in Tariffs (FiTs) has badly dented investor confidence and despite the Government’s constant assertion that no-one has lost their job yet, there is ample anecdotal evidence of companies laying off staff, and solar PV orders being cancelled with 25,000 jobs at risk.

For the Government that pledged to be the ‘Greenest’ ever, the FiTs debacle has been a disaster and not just because the new level of tariff available for those installing Solar PV has halved.  The constant merry-go-round of consultations, changes and legal actions in such a short space of time has left a fast growing industry reeling.

Some never took David Cameron’s pledge seriously and considered that this was just one of his throwaway soundbites on which he never expected to be held to account.  But said it he did, and many believed the rhetoric and in their enthusiasm for the environment and green policies wanted the Government to succeed.

Not only are the FiTs shenanigans destroying faith in the Government’s pledge, but even more damaging, it is destroying the confidence of those who want to invest in the Green economy. Investors need certainty.  And that is the message to George Osborne in an open letter signed by 11 members of the Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group (CLG) on Climate Change. 

The CLG, which includes senior executives from Shell UK, Unilever, Lloyds, Kingfisher, and energy companies see Budget as an opportunity for the Chancellor to clarify and set out his support for a sustainable low carbon economy – and make a strong case that action on climate change is ‘both a necessity and a source of economic opportunity’.

Referring specifically to the Green Deal, Carbon Capture and Storage and the Green Investment Bank, they call on Ministers to provide some clarity of policy, and demonstrate the Government’s support in the Green economy so that companies can be confident of  their future investments.

If anything can persuade Ministers of the need for investment in green industries it should be the report from analysts Clean Edge Inc. That shows that during 2011, despite the tough economic climate worldwide, the global market for solar PV, wind energy and biofuels grew by 31% to almost £160bn. And yet, the report from the PEW Environment Group showed that the UK has fallen from 6th to 13th in the ranking of countries encouraging green investment with a 70% fall in investment. That is a dreadful condemnation and a serious retreat from green investment under Labour.

Unfortunately Mr Osborne’s previous comments about  the ‘burden’ of some environmental policies and his assertion that “we’re not going to save the plant by putting our country out of business” do little to instil confidence that he will meet the challenge of promoting and encouraging green investment.

But that’s what the Greenest Government ever would do.


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