From the TUC

No-growth Chancellor blames green agenda

04 Oct 2011, by in Environment

Is the FT right to report the Chancellor has “signalled a retreat from the green agenda” in his speech on Monday? Osborne blamed environmental regulations for “piling costs on the energy bills of households and companies. We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business.” Climate change might be a “man-made disaster”, but Britain would cut its carbon emissions “no slower but also no faster than our fellow countries in Europe.”  Yet  a million people now work in the expanding green sector. Are environmental regulations really holding back growth?

Fact. Just under one million people work in over 51,600 undertakings in the UK’s low carbon environmental goods and services (LCEGS) economy. We’d want to see more, but BIS data shows that green jobs rose by half a percentage point (4,500 jobs) in year to April 2010.

Fact. In August, the government’s report, Enabling the Transition said that the global potential of the green economy would reach “£4 trillion by 2015  as economies around the world invest in low-carbon technologies across a broad range of sectors. The UK share of that market is more than £116 billion in 2009/10, but it could be much larger.” True. The UK green business sector grew 4.8% in 2009-2010.

Fact. The UK is sixth in the world league of low carbon goods and services.

The FT thinks that the comments signal that the Chancellor believes Britain should abandon its position as global exemplar on climate change “if it further drags on the economy.”

Of course, there are serious worries – unresolved still – about the distribution of the burdens of climate change policies, falling most on low income households and the UK’s energy intensive industries. Government set up an industry task group to report to Ministers by the end of the year, engaging businesses and unions in industries like steel, cement, ceramics, chemicals to come up with solutions. Similar efforts are needed to tackle fuel poverty.

But the Chancellor himself could release some of the accumulating billions in green taxes to ease the burdens  “piling costs on the energy bills of households and companies.”

HMT will receive £7.7bn in receipts from the EU Emissions Trading Scheme by 2015-2016, and a further £3.2bn from the carbon tax, or Carbon Price Floor as it is called. These sums are, of course, deeply overshadowed by the £14bn in City bonuses for a single year, which in itself points to the amount of wealth available in the UK to deal with fundamental social issues such as fuel poverty and climate change.

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Carbon floor price