UK's low carbon economy high on expectations

The UK’s low carbon economy is now worth more almost four times more that the nation's traditional manufacturing sector, according to new analysis.

Green London concept photo
The research put the current value of the low carbon sector at £205.7 billion, compared £55.6 billion in manufacturing and £132.9 billion for the construction sector.And the report found that more than 75,000 businesses, from wind turbine manufacturers to recycling plants, were currently active, employing more than 1.2 million people in the green economy.Published exclusively in the Guardian newspaper on Tuesday, the report was compiled by analysts kMatrix Data Services, which produces assessments of the low carbon economy for businesses, academics and local authorities."Experts say the sector not only has the potential to help tackle the climate crisis but also create sustainable jobs and improve people’s quality of life – with cleaner transport, reduced air pollution and better insulated homes," reported the Guardian."But they warn that if the UK is to make the necessary rapid and fair transition to a low carbon economy, the government must mobilise all sections of society – from trade unions to local authorities, community groups to businesses – behind a 'national programme of transformation'."According to the report, wind, wave and tidal, and solar power have all grown rapidly in recent years, despite a setback in the past year or so as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Sarah Howard, head of data analysis at kMatrix and author of the report, said: “This data, by examining the full extent of the low carbon economy from the grassroots up, shows us just how important it already is for the UK economy and the progress already made.“It also illustrates the chains and networks of supply are present and scalable, enabling the significant growth required in the wider sector. What we need now is a comprehensive policy framework and the required rapid growth can be achieved.”The UK government has been widely criticised for its failure to set out detailed policy proposals to meet its ambitious climate targets.Last month, Chris Stark, chief executive of the Climate Change Committee - the government’s own climate advisers - criticised the lack of policy detail, saying “progress was illusory”.Nick Molho, the executive director of Aldersgate Group, an alliance of business and policy leaders, said that for the net zero transition to deliver jobs to local communities across the UK, the government’s upcoming Net-Zero Strategy should include close collaboration with local authorities and community groups.He called for a UK-wide body to “support the workforce as the UK economy moves to net zero emissions” backed by by local transition bodies – made up of local industry, government, unions and educational sector representatives.“[They] could be tasked with carefully planning the changes needed in their areas to support a successful transition to net zero emissions,” he said.The report was based on 900 data sources from government, the private sector and academia. It used a different methodology to the Office for National Statistics annual assessment of the green economy, including supply chains and networks.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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