Amid growing fears George Osborne will deliver a Budget on Wednesday that undermines UK green goals, some of the country’s biggest businesses have sent the Chancellor an open letter urging him not to return to a "1980s view" that environmental safeguards and economic growth are incompatible.
The letter, published yesterday, calls for a "credible" green growth
strategy that spurs economic recovery and builds on the Government’s commitment to be the "greenest ever
". It has been signed by members of the Aldersgate Group
, which include big names such as Aviva, BT, Cisco, Diageo, IKEA, M&S, Microsoft, PepsiCo, National Grid, RWE Npower and Siemens.
The letter challenges the Chancellor’s view that environmental goals threaten to be a burden to businesses, risking jobs and growth. Instead it argues that business requires "strong, consistent policies
" to catalyse private investment
in energy efficiency
and low carbon technologies. It argues that businesses are facing rising costs for essential raw materials and minerals and, therefore, safeguarding the environment will lead the way to a more competitive and resilient economy.
Return to 1980s agenda
"The Chancellor’s view that businesses and jobs will be lost in the pursuit of green goals seems to signal a return to a 1980s view of the environmental performance of the economy as a net cost, and to row back from previous statements made by this Government," Peter Young, chairman of the Aldersgate Group, said. "On the contrary, as this letter makes clear, good environmental performance is now a prerequisite for economic competitiveness and growth in a resource constrained world."
In last year’s Autumn Statement, Osborne attacked "endless social and environmental goals – however worthy in their own right", saying, "not only will we not achieve those goals, but the businesses will fail, jobs will be lost, and our country will be poorer."
And under plans reportedly to be announced today, scores of environmental regulations
are expected to be slashed, including air and noise pollution and wildlife protection, in a Government move to cut red tape and save money.
In today’s letter, however, business leaders say environmental policies do not have to be a burden on business. "Quite the reverse, well designed, smart regulation can reduce business costs and drive innovation
and growth," the letter states.
The letter cites analysis by McKinsey, which finds that instead of being at the mercy of price volatility in the commodities market, there is an opportunity to achieve a global resource productivity revolution comparable to the progress made on labour productivity during the 20th century – with a total value to society estimated at £1.8 trillion in 2030.
"The UK is falling behind in the green economy race, investing 0.15 per cent of GDP in clean energy, compared to 1.4 per cent in Germany. A comprehensive growth strategy, coupled with more consistent messages across Whitehall, would drive investment and help build more secure jobs," said Young.
Today’s letter is the second open letter calling for a commitment to the green economy sent by leading UK businesses to the Chancellor ahead of the Budget. Earlier this month members of the Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders on Climate Change, which includes top executives from companies such as Kingfisher, Unilever, Tesco and Shell, urged the Chancellor to use the Budget Statement to keep the Government’s "promises" to ensure "the UK has the skills, technologies and investment framework to build future low carbon growth".