The UK is at risk of missing out on the economic opportunities presented the global shift towards low carbon technologies, according to new analysis by six of the UK’s development and environment organisations.
Speaking at this morning’s launch of a report jointly produced by Cafod, Christian Aid, Green Alliance, Greenpeace, RSPB and WWF, Labour peer Lord Mandelson added his voice to its conclusions, claiming the government is failing to provide long-term policy.
“The government's approach since the election has been dominated by a series of cuts to renewable support schemes,” the former cabinet minister said.
"The government is right to push the industry hard on costs but that needs also in my view to be combined with a clear long term policy commitment to the industry and that is where the government is failing. Government is always tactical but you also have to be strategic, you have to have a clear sighted view of end goals and objectives and keep powering towards them.”
He went on to claim that despite record levels of investment in low carbon and renewable energy technologies in 2015, the UK’s reset energy policy reset has spooked investors and set the country back on the global stage.
Referencing current energy minister Amber Rudd in his comments, Lord Mandelson said: “Many operators, manufacturers and investors are seeing only an amber light when they look at the UK at a base to invest. This is something the government needs to rectify or I think decarbonisation risks being a major missed opportunity for the UK.
“We need to show some long term vision otherwise amber I'm afraid is going to turn to red and that spells real disaster, not just for this sector but for the future industrial base of our country and therefore our prosperity and the well-being of all our citizens.”
His comments reflect the findings of the analysis released today which claims that energy policy u-turns enacted by the current government since last year’s election have reduced confidence in the UK’s domestic low carbon industries. It argues that this is already having an impact on the UK’s global ranking and market share.
The report also points out that the UK’s infrastructure pipeline has shown increasing focus on high carbon projects, with spending in this area rising from 13% in 2013 to 33% in 2016 as opposed to low carbon spending which is falling.
It argues that the UK has a history of leading in the low carbon field, having been the first country in 2008 to set a legally bindings climate change target, as well as other measures such as zero carbon building initiatives, abandoned last year, and the decision to shift away from coal generation. This global position is now diminishing, as shown by EY’s renewable energy country attractiveness index, which has seen the UK drop from second in 2007 to 13th in 2016.
Among those commenting on the analysis is John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, who said: “Millions of jobs and billions of pounds of investments are up for grabs globally, yet the UK government is now backtracking on the very policies that have given this country a head start. The UK has already done much of the heavy-lifting and pioneering on clean energy. It would be a huge loss and a missed opportunity if Britain ended up watching from the sidelines whilst others reap the rewards of the low carbon revolution we've helped to spark."
Lord Barker, former secretary of state for energy and climate change, added: “To succeed in a world rapidly shifting to a low carbon economy, the UK needs more internationally competitive and innovative clean industries. To achieve this, we need to super charge our climate and energy strategy to create an even more attractive investment environment in which innovation and the entrepreneurs of the future can thrive.”
The report calls for greater support of the UK’s low carbon industry at home and for the government to champion UK low carbon experts and projects overseas, positioning the UK as an expert business partner in low carbon delivery.
Lord Mandelson also called on the government to set the fifth carbon budget and make good on its promise to set a target for net zero emissions in the second half of the century. He also called for certainty for investors by setting out the trajectory for the LCF after 2020.
"These are questions that are upper most in people's minds and they need answering sooner, not later,” he said.