Right-wing think tanks at odds with British business on green growth

Four right-wing groups set out policies to 'build the momentum for growth' in today's Telegraph. But these carbon-intensive projects are at odds with British business.

Four right-wing think tanks and campaign groups have come together today to set out a series of policies to ‘build the momentum for growth‘ . Unfortunately their blend of carbon-intensive projects are very much at odds with the views of British business.

In a letter to today’s Telegraph, representatives from the Centre for Policy Studies, Institute of Economic Affairs, Conservative Home website and TaxPayers’ Alliance set out seven ‘policiesfor growth’. These include:

– the development of new gas (including fracked gas) and coal without any mention of carbon capture and storage;

– an end to the building of wind farms;

– abandoning the HS2 high speed rail project but increasing airport capacity at both Heathrow and the Thames Estuary; and

– exempting small businesses from (apparently all) employment regulations.

They also call for the repeal or suspension of the Climate Change Act, which they claim, “threatens to impose a yearly bill of some £15 billion, chiefly affecting those who can least afford it.”

The final figure may be accurate (no source is provided) but, in a new report ‘The colour of growth: Maximising the potential of green business‘, the Confederation of British Industry see it rather differently. Launching the reportt last week, CBI director general John Cridland said:

“The so-called ‘choice’ between going green or going for growth is a false one. With the right policies in place, green business will be a major pillar of our future growth.”

The report outlines that, “taking a smarter green policy approach could boost the UK’s economy by almost £20 billion [per year] by 2014/15 … [and lead to] an improvement in the UK’s trade balance of almost £0.8 billion”. The report shows that in 2010/11, the UK’s green business grew in real terms by 2.3 per cent. Indeed, the Guardian’s article on the report outlines that the green economy contributed a third of the 0.6 per cent growth seen in the fiscal year 2010-11.

In relation to the maligned wind sector, the CBI outline that, “New markets such as offshore wind promise to deliver a significant amount of inward investment from multi-national companies including a proposed £80m from Siemens and £125m from Gamesa”. They go on to state that, “Britain’s island status gives it an advantage in sectors such as offshore wind” and praise the North East region for “creating a low-carbon industrial cluster in offshore wind”. Instead of calling for the cessation of wind power in the UK they encourage government to “identify strategic opportunities to develop domestic capabilities with the use of targeted interventions and longer-term technology road-mapping.” They cite research showing that, “capital expenditure costs for offshore wind projects could fall 33% by 2022 if a greater proportion of parts were made in the UK”. The CBI’s findings are consistent with two reports recently published by the IPPR which surveyed business views in the UK and EU on the low carbon transition.

As well as being out of touch with British business, the four right-wing groups also fail to understand the safeguards placed in the Climate Change Act 2008. Clause 10 of the Act requires the Government, when drawing up budgets to cap carbon emissions, to take into account “economic circumstances, and in particular the likely impact of the decision on the economy and the competitiveness of particular sectors of the economy” . If they think the Government failed in their duty when compiling the 4th carbon budget last year, they should judicially review the decision rather than writing pointless letters to the Telegraph.

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