Failure to develop green economy could cost UK firms billions – CBI

© Toby Melville
Britain’s most senior business voice has condemned the government’s lackluster attempt to build a green economy, warning UK firms are set to lose hundreds of billions of pounds if ministers don’t radically reassess their agenda.

Confederation of British Industry (CBI) director general John Cridland unleashed a scathing attack on the government on Tuesday, warning of a decline in green policies since May’s general election.

Cridland, who joined the CBI as a policy advisor in 1982, said the government’s policy path has left a string of eroded opportunities for green business in its wake.

Speaking at a business conference on climate change on Tuesday, Cridland said the ambiguous future of Britain’s carbon usage is a cause of concern for investors.

“Today’s investors are more uncertain about the UK’s low-carbon future,” he said.

“From the roll-back of renewables to the mixed messages on energy efficiency, these changes [by the government since coming to power] send a worrying signal about the UK as a place for low-carbon investment.”

Cridland said the country could see losses amounting to billions in foreign sales related to green energy.

Since coming to power, the Conservative Party has delivered a series of blows to the green economy, ending the building of onshore wind farms, scrapping a flagship green insulation scheme and partially privatizing the state’s Green Investment Bank.

Cridland said Britain’s green economy is an “emerging market,” which could be compared to China and India’s emerging economies.

“Over many years, the UK has built up real credibility on climate leadership and low-carbon investment,” he said.

“This is hard won, but easily lost.”

Britain’s green economy is estimated to be worth £120bn a year. Between 2010 and 2013, it grew at a rate of more than 7 percent per annum, compared with less than 2 percent a year for the British economy at large.

Ministers will be rattled by Cridland’s remarks, as the government usually regards the CBI as an ally.

Responding to the criticism, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said its priority is to reduce emissions in the most cost efficient manner, while keeping energy bills low for families and businesses.

“We are pushing for a strong global deal [at December’s UN climate talks] in Paris that creates a level playing field for business and drives innovation,” it said.

“Government support has already driven down the cost of renewable energy significantly, helping technologies to stand on their own two feet.”