CBI chief calls for smarter politics

CBI director-general John Cridland

CBI director general John Cridland has used a key note speech to implore the government not to choose between going green or going for growth.

Having launched a new CBI report The colour of growth, maximising the potential of green business, Cridland described the choice between economic growth and going green as ‘a false one’. He argues that by supporting the renewables sector, politicians can avoid damaging the competitiveness of this key industry which, according to CBI, accounted for a third of all UK growth in 2011/12.

He added: “The so-called choice between going green or going for growth is a false one. We are increasingly hearing that politicians are for one or the other, when in reality, with the right policies in place, green business will be a major pillar of our future growth.

“With something like a third of all our growth accounted for by green business last year, the UK could be a global front-runner in the shift to low-carbon. In the search for growth, we’re digging for goldmines – and one of them is green.

“Get our energy and climate change policies right, and we can add £20bn extra to our economy and knock £0.8bn off the trade gap, all within the lifetime of this parliament.”

Cridland also warned that the government’s current approach could lead to a green business slowdown which could not only affect the UK’s net exports but potentially undermine efforts to meet legally binding carbon emission reduction targets by 2020.

Friends of the Earth have welcomed CBI’s assessment and join in the calls on government to show a greater level of commitment to the industry.

The organisation’s economics campaigner, David Powell, said: “The CBI is bang on the money – developing a green economy is crucial for getting the UK out of the red.

“Despite patchy government backing and an unenthusiastic chancellor, the UK’s low-carbon sector has tip-toed into life – but it desperately needs the oxygen of Government support to enable it to flourish.

“The government must clearly commit to a strong green economy to boost investor confidence, creating new jobs and business opportunities in the process.

“Ministers should start by ensuring the Energy Bill leads to a fossil-fuel free electricity system by 2030 and a huge increase in clean British energy – and freeing the Green Investment Bank from Treasury clutches.”