Green Is Working
It’s a real pity that last week’s Green Is Working in London demonstration didn’t get the attention it deserved. The pro-growth message, the presence of telly capitalist and ‘dragon’ Deborah Meaden and the neat highjacking of a certain Conservative party slogan certainly should have resonated much more in the corridors of power than the usual dread-locked hoards wanting to smash the system.
The economic case is compelling. The rising oil price in 2007 almost certainly precipitated the implosion of the debt bubble, the continuing high oil price is keeping the global economy under the cosh, and a third of what growth there is in the UK economy has been attributed to the green economy (according to the CBI). As I have said before the question is no longer “green or growth?” but “green growth or stagnation?”
The struggle for the green agenda in the Coalition Government is well understood. The Liberal Democrats and a cadre of progressive Conservatives are pushing forward hard while the Chancellor and a rump of old school Tories, perhaps with fond memories of the North Sea Oil boom years under Margaret Thatcher, are resisting and trying to prioritise gas instead. The Prime Minister appears to be trying to offend neither side by saying very little – and the one time he did open his mouth on energy recently it turned out to be another ‘misspeak’.
Unfortunately little pressure is coming from the Opposition. Labour leader Ed Miliband apparently ‘forgot’ the green economy section of his look-no-notes conference speech, which even if we take his word for it, suggests it is far from a priority.
In the absence of a clear political direction the green economy muddles on. We have good news such as 10% of electricity being produced by onshore wind alone for a whole day in September, then bad news such as the glacial slow uptake of electric vehicles.
My recommendations would be:
- A clear commitment from the Government (and indeed Opposition). A strong clear statement from the top would boost confidence and an end to wobbling in the face of media scare stories would steady nerves too.
- Rapid investment in enabling technologies such as smart grids and electrical storage technologies (instead of the usual economic stimulus high carbon formula of roads and buildings).
- Strengthening of green procurement requirements in the public sector.
- Memoranda of Understanding between potential large scale users and suppliers of low carbon technologies to generate economies of scale in emerging supply chains.
- Completion of the shift to intelligent subsidies which vary with capital costs to avoid the gold rush firefighting we have seen over the Feed In Tariffs.
Photograph: Stop Climate Chaos coalition