Chancellor George Osborne has been urged by leading businesses to deliver on the Government’s commitment to be “the greenest ever” and introduce a growth strategy in the Budget that drives investment in renewables and energy efficiency.
An open letter to the Chancellor says companies are facing rising costs for essential raw materials and minerals, while their scarcity and price volatility are having a damaging effect on the economy. As a result, they argue, safeguarding the environment will lead the way to a more competitive and resilient economy.
The signatories include Aviva, BT, Cisco, Diageo, IKEA, M&S, Microsoft, PepsiCo, National Grid, RWE Npower, Siemens, Worcester Bosch, Reed Elsevier, Anglian Water, Philips and Grant Thornton.
Concern is expressed at the Chancellor’s comments in last year’s Autumn Statement that burdening businesses “with endless social and environmental goals – however worthy in their own right – then not only will we not achieve those goals, but the businesses will fail, jobs will be lost, and our country will be poorer.”
Peter Young, chairman of the Aldersgate Group, an alliance of leaders from business, politics and society that drives action for a sustainable economy, said: “[This] 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.
“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.”
Young points out that the UK invests 0.15% of GDP in clean energy compared with 1.4% in Germany.
The signatories to the letter support the need for:
- Credible, consistent and bankable policies to accelerate the transition to a sustainable economy.
- Delivery against the Government’s commitment to be “the greenest ever”, supported by strong and consistent communication.
- A credible growth strategy that catalyses investment in renewables and energy efficiency.
- Developing a decision-making framework where environmental, social and economic goals are integrated and complementary, such as the announcement of the intention to include natural capital in the national accounts.
- Capitalising on current market opportunities, such as reviewing how the Green Investment Bank could seek to mobilise the current record levels of private sector savings, or a new, targeted approach to quantitative easing that could help drive growth and jobs.