Confederation of British Industry director-general John Cridland CBE has lambasted the government over its raft of cuts to clean energy policies, which he said would cost British businesses hundreds of billions of pounds in lost export opportunities.

Speaking at a business conference organised by environmental think-tank the Green Alliance today, Cridland criticised a lack of certainty and clarity caused by the government’s current direction and said the two factors were “critical” for UK businesses.

Cridland estimated that the green economy was already worth as much as £120 billion a year and had historically outstripped the wider economy’s growth rate, but voiced concern that this was being put at risk by recent policy upheaval, warning that the UK’s leadership was “hard won, but easily lost”.

Since coming into power in May, the Conservative government has culled, significantly restricted or proposed cutting a number of clean energy support frameworks including the small-scale feed-in tariff, Green Deal financing and the Zero Carbon Homes initiative.

Criticism of the cuts has been widespread, but Cridland’s remarks are significant considering his position as the head of an organisation which represents 190,000 British businesses and standing within the business world.

“The green economy is an emerging market in its own right, brimming with opportunity, and the UK has built up real credibility on climate leadership and low carbon investment. Yet, with the roll-back of renewables policies and the mixed messages on energy efficiency, the government risks sending a worrying signal to businesses.

“We need all countries to pull in the same direction at the Paris [COP 21] Summit to give firms the certainty and confidence they need to invest in the green economy for the long run. Politicians and negotiators should be confident that business is behind them in securing a lasting climate deal,” Cridland said.

Former US vice president Al Gore, also speaking at the event, echoed Cridland’s criticism. He said: “The United Kingdom’s historic legacy of leadership on the most important moral issues faced by humanity, including the climate crisis, is long and has been recognised with respect by the community of nations.”

“It is time for the UK government to honour and live up to that legacy, and return to its global leadership position, domestically and abroad, by supporting an ambitious international agreement in Paris that unleashes the power of the private sector to create a global clean energy economy,” Gore added.