Why more carrot and less stick can help us to ‘Power Ahead’
The TUC recently published a new policy document, ‘Powering Ahead: How UK industry can match Europe’s environmental leaders’. This document sets out a path to a sustainable industrial strategy, in which ‘sustainable’ describes the economic, social and environmental challenges facing companies, workers and the wider world.
The British Ceramic Confederation (BCC) agrees with the TUC that, in the words of ‘Powering Ahead, “the UK needs a national mission for a new overarching industrial, energy and climate change policy,” and this “requires Treasury and the new Department (for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)… to pull together”. The TUC recommends that “advocates for a sustainable industrial strategy should seek to build a consensus across political parties, business organisations and trade unions… not only to meet our climate change commitments but to support the balanced economic growth that is even more necessary post-Brexit.”
My organisation certainly looks forward to becoming a part of that consensus.
The BCC also supports key points made by the Prime Minister in her recent Birmingham speech, in which she said[i]: “I want to see an energy policy that emphasises the reliability of supply and lower costs for users. A better research and development policy that helps firms to make the right investment decisions. More Treasury-backed project bonds for new infrastructure projects. More house building. A proper industrial strategy to get the whole economy firing.”
For many years the BCC, working with the Energy Intensive Users’ Group and the TUC, has sought to develop the policies, including technology and innovation, that support “a just transition to a low carbon economy.” Our joint vision includes developing and growing the world’s most energy / carbon-efficient energy intensive industries, recognising that they are critical enablers to our low carbon future. For example, in ceramics, bricks and clay construction products can help deliver the durable, affordable and energy efficient new homes needed in the UK. Our refractory manufacturers innovate to save customers energy in high temperature processes such as glass and steel; and technical ceramics are critical components in many types of low carbon energy generation.
We call on the UK Government to shift to a holistic, novel and fairer approach that delivers effective emission reductions whilst enhancing the UK’s competitiveness, jobs, growth and investment credentials. This requires ‘less stick’ (i.e. cutting the ever-higher green taxes which push up costs and erode competitiveness) and instead offering ‘more carrot’ (i.e. incentives to support investment and innovation in industrial energy/carbon efficiency) to deliver a more level playing field with global competitors.
These are central principles in our ceramic “EARTH” campaign to press for the policy changes that could help unlock the investment and growth potential of our sector.
- Emissions Trading Scheme. The Government needs to ensure that ceramic sub-sectors receive mitigation measures in full to guard against leakage of carbon investment and jobs to competitors outside the UK;
- Action to lighten the cumulative costs of UK energy, climate and environmental policies which harm the sector’s ability to remain internationally competitive;
- Reduce industrial carbon emissions be developing a long-term partnership with direct funding assistance for the sector on development and implementation of breakthrough technologies;
- Trade freely but fairly. Ensure an adequate and comprehensive UK-EU trade settlement. Seek new UK free trade agreements that support UK ceramic manufacturers. Develop adequate UK Trade Defence Instruments to protect against dumped products and reject unilateral recognition of China as a Market Economy until it meets acceptable criteria.
- Housing. Achieve higher growth for the UK economy from government construction investment, by enabling investment in the supply chain here rather than overseas.
The BCC wants to work in partnership with government and union to realise this vision. We must ensure the UK is not simply decarbonising by deindustrialising, otherwise we will continue to export jobs and import carbon.