One of the biggest secrets of the current UK recession is that there is one sector which is booming. Strangely this sector is often perceived as at odds with economic growth, holding back industry and a luxury we can't afford with the nation's finances in a slump. This booming growth sector is the green economy.
While the UK economy has been bumping along the bottom since the crash of 2008 and is projected to only return to its 2007 level by 2014, the green economy will have grown by 40% in the same period. Research by the Green Alliance shows that in the UK there are more low carbon and environmental jobs (788,700) than those in motor trades (440,200) and telecommunications (184,500) combined. Britain is a world leader in green business, we have a £5 billion trade surplus in this area and a third of all new energy deals in the world receive both their legal and financial advice from the UK.
However this UK success story is at risk. The government's draft Energy Bill is to be published this autumn and businesses are crying out for robust environmental commitments from the government to ensure this growing area of business continues. Despite proclaiming themselves to be the 'Greenest Government Ever' the Coalition has cut solar panel subsidies and has let uncertainty linger over a similar fate for wind power. A lack of government commitment to carbon capture and storage development has led to fears that UK projects will miss out on EU funding.
British firms are prepared to plough millions of pounds of investment into job-creating green infrastructure but they need government backing in the form of long term policy commitments to ensure their money will be well spent.
This week members of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition are handing in a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to follow the advice of the cross party Climate Change Committee to substantially decarbonise the UK power sector by 2030. Labour and the Lib Dems have both called for similar action but it needs government policy to give the green light to UK business to make the necessary investments.
In order to meet the government's own climate change targets which are enshrined in law by the Climate Change Act we need firm commitments not ministers seeking out loopholes in order to build more gas burning power stations.
This year's extreme weather events and their impact on food production which has hit the world's poorest people worst, plus the historic levels of Arctic ice melt underlines the drastic need for governments to use legislation to tackle climate change.
To that end the Stop Climate Chaos coalition is also asking the Prime Minister to ensure that emissions from UK shipping and aviation are included in the carbon budgets laid out in the Climate Change Act. It is bizarre that these two crucial sources of carbon pollution are currently not accounted for and turning a blind eye to them will only undermine other efforts at tackling climate change.
With climate change an increasingly urgent problem, the economy struggling and green British firms leading the world, it's time for the government to commit to an Energy Bill that is fit for purpose.
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