Advice for David Cameron in office: forget the 'green crap' and focus on the economy
The Conservatives won a decisive, albeit slim majority at the polls last week and are now leading a single-party government again for the first time since 1997. Without their LibDem partners to rein them in, many fear that the environment will take a back seat in the next parliament. My advice would be: forget about the 'green crap' (as David Cameron is said to have called it) and focus on the economy.By Lee Petts, Remsol.
But that's not because I don't think environmental issues need to be championed - quite the opposite. And in fact, the two are in many ways inextricably linked.Take the way the economy functions. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, it's worked in a mostly linear 'extract-make-use-discard' fashion. Build-in more circularity, and according to the Environmental Services Association, there's an opportunity to unlock £10 billion in investment and create 50,000 new jobs, but it would also safeguard natural resources for future generations by making them go further.
Then there's shale gas. Producing our apparently vast onshore shale gas resources has great potential to create jobs in a prosperous new supply chain, curb expensive imports, generate a new source of hydrocarbon tax revenues and improve energy security. But it could also avoid pipeline losses of natural gas associated with continental imports and the CO2 emissions of producing and shipping LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) from Qatar.If we deploy more renewables, in the right places, it would enable us to reduce our demand for imported Russian coal used in electricity generation, and improve energy security, whilst creating jobs in the supply chain. According to recent research, for instance, onshore wind contributes over £900 million to the British economy in GVA. Domestic solar PV could employ 14,000 FTE positions a year, on average, between now and 2030. But, again, if renewables can meet a greater share of our energy demand, carbon emissions will fall.
Done right, a stronger economy and a greener economy don't need to be mutually exclusive - the strategies set out above, and others like them, can achieve both.But the effort required to move us to a more circular economy, that's increasingly powered by low-carbon energy sources, requires innovation and investment in R&D - and that often requires government support in the form of loan guarantees and subsidies to help de-risk it in the early stages.
That kind of support has to be paid for, and that means using some of the taxes on the profits of successful businesses and the people they employ.The only way to do that is ensure that we have a healthy and vibrant economy, which is why it's important to keep working to build on the economic recovery we've seen in the last few years or there simply won't be enough money available to spend on achieving our 'green' ambitions. When you look at it this way, it's obvious. A greener future will only be within reach if it's backed by a strong economy.