Energy policy U-turns in 2015 may have lost the UK its lead in paving the way to a low carbon economy. A report published today by six of Britain’s leading development and environment organisations suggests that confidence in the UK’s domestic low carbon industries is falling, causing its global ranking and market share to drop. The UK no longer leads worldwide markets like it used to, something the authors say could have a negative impact on the country.
Analysis published today suggests that as the world’s economy shifts to low carbon, there are worrying signs that the UK is losing its lead. Consequently, it risks missing out on the sizeable economic opportunity of new global investment.
It is predicted that $1,900 billion will be spent worldwide on low carbon generation, energy efficiency and carbon capture by 2030. The UK previously led these markets, exporting low carbon services and expertise to the world’s major emerging economies.
The analysis reveals that:
- The UK’s infrastructure pipeline shows increasing focus on high carbon projects: high carbon infrastructure spending has grown from 13 per cent in 2013 to 33 per cent in 2016 while low carbon spending is falling.
- Major policy U-turns in 2015 mean that UK domestic investment has slowed or gone in reverse in key development areas such as building insulation, onshore renewables and carbon capture and storage.
It concludes that to restore the UK as a market leader the government must:
- Support low carbon industry at home.
- Champion UK low carbon experts and projects overseas, positioning the UK as an expert business partner in low carbon delivery.
- Retain the UK’s competitive edge by supporting innovation in low carbon technologies.
- Continue to raise global climate ambitions, maintaining the UK’s position as an international climate leader.
Lord Mandelson, President of Policy Network and Chairman of Global Counsel, said: “The global low carbon transformation will be one of the big drivers of the world economy in the 21st Century. At COP21 in Paris, the UK government showed bold global leadership. This analysis highlights it needs to demonstrate equally bold leadership to make sure decarbonisation isn’t a missed opportunity for business and prosperity in the UK.”
Sir John Armitt, President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, said: “The Paris Accord sends a strong and clear message on the need for low carbon infrastructure and what we need to achieve by 2050. This is positive – a real turning point – and sets industry on a path towards a common global goal. Change on such a radical scale will however bring challenges. To lead the challenge we need the right combination of new technology, together with clear and stable government policies and incentives.”
Lord Barker, former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said: “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.”
Adam Bruce, former Chairman of UK Offshore Wind Programme Board and global head of corporate affairs at Mainstream Renewable Power, said: “This report shows clearly that the UK is in danger of losing its leading position in the global race to build a vibrant low carbon economy. It is clearly in the interests of UK plc to secure as much as possible of the multi-billion dollar international low carbon goods and services market, and government policy needs to be fully aligned with this objective.”
John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, said: “The latest reports have been unanimous in declaring 2015 a record year for investment in renewables, with developing countries now overtaking affluent ones on the fast lane to a clean energy world. 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 side-lines whilst others reap the rewards of the low carbon revolution we’ve helped to spark.”
David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of WWF-UK, said: “Low carbon growth is the only option if the UK is to meet its emissions targets and retain its position as a leader in the global green economy. Yet some Ministers have sent confusing messages about their commitment to green energy and technologies. That’s why it’s vital the government now agrees a strong fifth carbon budget, and backs it up with an emissions reduction plan setting out exactly how we’ll build low carbon solutions into the DNA of UK Plc.”
Loretta Minghella, Chief Executive of Christian Aid, said: “The Paris Agreement has invigorated the global transition to a low carbon economy and new technology is coming down the infrastructure pipeline. Developing countries are helping set the pace, with the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative and India’s Solar Alliance outlining ambitious plans to ramp up clean energy. The UK can either ride this wave or be swept away by it. As a nation with a history of innovation and global connections, Britain used to be a leader in clean technology development. It’s sad to see it stand by and let its position slide just as the sector takes off around the world. Everyone knows where the future is heading. It’s time Britain reclaimed its position as a global leader.”
Chris Bain, Director of CAFOD, said: “Renewable energy not only helps tackle climate change, it’s almost the most cost effective way to help the one in five people worldwide who don’t have access to electricity. Richer countries now must help developing countries get the energy needed for development without locking them in to using outdated, polluting fossil fuel systems. The Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris agreement set us on the path to a new carbon future; the UK government must now deliver on its promises.”
Mike Clarke, Chief Executive of RSPB, said: “This analysis shows that the UK simply can’t afford to ignore the growing global demand for low carbon energy solutions. The RSPB recently set out ways by which we can deliver the renewable energy future we need in harmony with nature. Investing in innovation means we will be leading by example in transitioning to a low carbon economy, essential for people and for wildlife.”
Matthew Spencer, Director of Green Alliance, said: “World markets are becoming low carbon faster than anyone predicted, partly because of UK diplomatic leadership on carbon reduction. But if the UK wants to maintain its share of international trade in energy services, construction and transport technology it will have to shore up domestic demand. British businesses will only maintain their international competitiveness if they have stable home markets for zero carbon buildings, power plant and vehicles.”