From the TUC

Neither green nor growth

15 Sep 2011, by in Environment

The Coalition’s Programme for Government promised “the green industries that are so essential for our future.” But progress has stalled, 80,000 more  have join the dole queues, leaving the field wide open to cynics who say you can have green, or growth, but not both. But what about neither? To fill the policy void, the EEF’s stimulating online discussion, Green and Growth, points to four factors inhibiting a green economy: strategic misdirection, an over-focus on process emissions, political uncertainty and a sometimes muddled policy mix.

The employers’ body says government indecision is creating manufacturing uncertainty. Examples abound – it cut support for large scale solar energy earlier this year, after barely a year’s activity. Jobs and investment were lost as a result. Now, lobbyists, including the TUC, are hoping to persuade the committee of MPs meeting on 15 September to reconsider this move.

Investors in high capital items like offshore wind or CCS fundamentally need very long term certainty to invest, with risks underpinned for the same periods. Uncertainties over the ports scheme to support offshore wind, or the lack of a timetable for CCS projects two to four, go to the heart of a stuttering green growth.

The EEF questions whether climate strategy is over-focused on controlling CO2 emissions from industrial processes, rather than looking at life-cycle emissions of products. This implies that consumers, those who use products like cars or patio heaters, should contribute more to carbon reductions costs.

EEF also goes close to calling for a review of the renewables target. We might save more carbon for the same price through other technologies. But the TUC would argue that a major factor inhibiting renewables has been the lack of a high ambition growth model, involving both a rounded domestic supply chain and a skills strategy. Plants are being set up along the North east coast and elsewhere, but we will see foreign steel standing in the North Sea where UK steel should be. Of the 6,000 jobs in large scale onshore wind schemes, just 300 are in manufacturing.

Nor will green growth happen without a coherent skills strategy. It’s a gap in the EEF report, hopefully addressed elsewhere. This is also a coherence issue for government and stakeholders. At the centre is a clear need for Ministerial leadership, supported by a stakeholder body focusing on skills needs.

The Deputy Prime Minister said yesterday that Whitehall “will put its foot on the accelerator”.  But recycled announcements on the Green Investment Bank or renewables won’t put one more green job on the market. EEF has launched a timely public debate on Green and Growth. Hopefully it will contribute to the fresh thinking on a strategy for green manufacturing security that’s required – and generate some much-needed new, high quality green jobs.