Does blue + yellow = green business?
This week the UK has entered unfamiliar political territory with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats forming the first coalition Government since the war. As a Lib Dem myself, I felt extremely worried at first, later moving to a state of mere wariness, but in the clear light of day now I am very pleased with the sheer number of LD policies which are heading for the statute book.
So, how does the deal stack up from a green business point of view?
Firstly, Lib Dem Chris Huhne as energy and climate change secretary is a very good thing. There are many climate change sceptics in the Tory ranks who may have tried to dilute their Leader’s green tendencies – instead the balance of power has flipped the other way. Chris may appear a little grey at times, but he is hugely capable, committed and as tough as old boots.
Secondly, given the low profile that green issues had during the campaign, there is a huge list of green business-friendly policies in the Lib-Con agreement, namely:
- The establishment of a smart grid and the roll-out of smart meters;
- The full establishment of feed-in tariff systems in electricity – as well as the maintenance of banded ROCs;
- Measures to promote a huge increase in energy from waste through anaerobic digestion;
- The creation of a green investment bank;
- The provision of home energy improvement paid for by the savings from lower energy bills;
- Retention of energy performance certificates while scrapping HIPs;
- Measures to encourage marine energy;
- The establishment of an emissions performance standard that will prevent coal-fired power stations being built unless they are equipped with sufficient CCS to meet the emissions performance standard;
- The establishment of a high-speed rail network;
- The cancellation of the third runway at Heathrow and the refusal of additional runways at Gatwick and Stansted;
- The replacement of the air passenger duty with a per-flight duty;
- The provision of a floor price for carbon, as well as efforts to persuade the EU to move towards full auctioning of ETS permits;
- Mandating a national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles;
- Continuation of the present government’s proposals for public sector investment in CCS technology for four coal-fired power stations
- A specific commitment to reduce central government carbon emissions by 10% within 12 months [ie the 10:10 commitment].
This is all really good, meaty and specific stuff, which many environmentalists (eg Monbiot, FoE) are praising as better than under the previous Labour Government, who always had a tendency to undermine their green proposals with an anti-green movement in the same breath (eg Low Carbon Strategy/Heathrow Expansion). Beefed up FITs, the ETS and the Green Investment Bank should really make a difference, along with the investments in particular technologies.
So the march towards a sustainable economy and society goes on. Recession or no recession, the strength of any business is increasingly going to rely on their sustainability performance. And my question, as always, remains, do you see this as an opportunity or a threat?