At the launch of the government’s long awaited Clean Growth Strategy the focus was clear. Clean Growth is about building a better Britain for the next generation. Green politics have always been caught up in the cross generational conflict of who pays. Now, prosperity and low carbon are no longer a compromise but aligned objectives for the economy. While it doesn’t quite crystallise the fossil in fossil fuels, the Strategy does provide a much needed energy boost to the previously embattled green power sector. Perhaps this is the government waking up to the concerns of the incoming (as opposed to outgoing and aging) generation of voters whose rude political awakening post-Brexit, and mass mobilisation during the recent election, have made everyone take notice, but in a way that doesn’t matter. The future will be greener.
This strategy should also be welcomed for looking at green not just in terms of narrow concepts of lowest cost, as if being green was just a trade off, but framing the narrative in terms of investment for the next generation. There was a real danger that short term thriftiness was merely saving up bigger costs for the future. The move to assessing the development of technologies in terms of their net cost (i.e. their wider economic benefit) rather than short-term lowest cost will ensure we see similar efficiency and cost reduction success with technologies such as marine energy as we have seen from offshore wind.
The cliché of planting trees which promised an ‘equitable life’ might have lost its lustre in the financial crisis when all such certainties were uprooted, but 10 years on we are realising that if we want an economy that delivers growth without costing the earth we must invest now with real purpose and for the long haul.
The rewards are clear. The projections of double-digit growth rates to 2030 prioritise the green economy as the dominant source of UK prosperity post-Brexit by creating the long-term stable jobs and the export revenues we need.
Investment carries risk upon which its rewards are earned, but investors need clarity of purpose on the part of the government to mitigate at least some of that risk (and reduce the cost of the investment over the long term). As such, developing a strategy for a green Britain is a win-win; it gives clear signals to investors about the direction of travel over the long term and provides an initial boost of confidence that the market can convert into action.
Of course there is still devil in the detail, but the cross departmental involvement (at ministerial level) and even-handed focus across transport, energy generation and energy efficiency reflects a real effort to weave the green story across the whole economy and not just operate at the margins.
Bruce Davis is co-founder and Managing Director of peer-to-peer ethical finance platform Abundance Investment and a member of the government’s new Green Finance Task Force. Visit www.Abundanceinvestment.com