A forum set up for business leaders to advise the Government on green growth has not met for two years, resource minister Dan Rogerson has admitted.
He was quizzed about the Green Economy Council (GEC) when he gave evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) on circular economy issues.
When asked what he had done with the council to help embed the circular economy agenda into industrial strategies, Rogerson said: “Progress is being made on that basis.”
But it emerged during subsequent questioning that there had not been a meeting of the council since January 2013.
Committee chair Joan Walley commented that “this speaks volumes”. She said that such a lack of robust policy at a domestic level would “surely reflect” in a watered down circular economy package at European level.
A perceived lack of leadership from the top would result in the perception that the circular economy is not given much importance by the Government, she added.
The GEC was formed in January 2011 to support the Government on the transition to a green, low-carbon economy. It was seen as an opportunity for the Departments for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), Energy and Climate Change (Decc) and Defra to work together to minimise costs for business and maximise opportunities.
Former environment secretary Caroline Spelman asked Rogerson whether the lack of meetings would diminish the influence of Defra because “the concept was for three secretary of states to interface with a huge range of businesses showing interest in green growth”.
Rogerson said Defra had been working very closely with the council on “opportunities for connections between adaptation and mitigation”, as well as working on communications “to keep in the public eye”.
The minister was also asked whether fiscal incentives could encourage circular economy policies rather than the current voluntary approaches.
He said this was a matter for the Treasury, but Zac Goldsmith said Defra was still responsible for raising the issue with the Treasury.
Rogerson said: “If we feel that the voluntary approach and existing plans will not [reach the targets] then the future Government will have to look at that.”
TUC general secretary and GEC member Frances O’Grady, told MRW: “The TUC backed the launch of the GEC as a vital and much-needed initiative. Unfortunately the GEC has not lived up to its early promise of playing a decisive role across government.
“The exception is the council’s dedicated Task Group on energy intensive industries, which has helped secure the involvement of heavy industries in the transition to a low carbon economy.
“The UK as a whole is in danger of falling behind our European competitors in manufacturing design and innovation that avoids a limited shelf-life.
“Britain’s industrial policy needs to be stronger and greener, and we need an active Green Economy Council to help make that happen.”