A Five Point Plan to Build a Green Economy
Every political leader from Barack Obama to the head of the smallest district council appears to agree on one thing – that we should be taking advantage of the current economic downturn to build a new green economy. Saving the planet, rebuilding the economy and creating jobs at a single stroke is a very attractive goal, but it will take much more than words to make it happen. Here’s a five point plan to make this dream a reality:
1. Bold Leadership
Leadership is setting an objective and sticking to it through thick and thin. Saying one thing and doing another creates cynicism and distrust – Gordon Brown has made much of the green job revolution then approved the third runway at Heathrow, losing all credibility at a stroke. It remains to be seen whether Barack Obama will be able to deliver the very precise promises he has made to boost the green sector.
2. Provision of Incentives
Financial incentives for the green sector are currently fitful and bureaucratic in the UK eg complex grant applications and enhanced capital allowances. We need simple incentives to ease development and uptake of technologies. Germany’s famous Feed In Tariff makes it easy for anyone to connect renewables to the national electricity grid and receive a preferential rate. It has boosted the amount of energy from renewables to 12% and created over a quarter of million jobs.
3. Removal of barriers
On the other hand, there are plenty of legislative barriers and ‘perverse incentives’ in place which slow the development of green industries. Connecting small scale renewables to the UK grid is a bureaucratic nightmare, the Animal By Products Order makes composting of food waste extremely difficult, and airlines do not pay tax on their fuel unlike other, greener modes of transport. These barriers have got to go.
4. Provision of Information
The public cannot be expected to make environmentally favourable choices without sufficient reliable information on which to base their decision. Experience shows that third party accreditations are required to avoid vagaries and greenwash. The EU energy label is undoubtedly the most successful eco-label in the world being clear and simple. Since the label was introduced for white goods in 1996, A-rated products have soared from 0% to 76% of the UK market.
5. Building Markets
The public sector and the enlightened private sector can use their buying power to build and strengthen green industries. The public sector can and should demand the highest environmental performance in buildings, vehicles and sources of energy. Local foods and recycled materials should be given preference while toxic material is phased out. This is a great opportunity for leaders to put their money where their mouth is.