UK ‘in reverse gear’ in global race for green growth, think tank warns

The UK is “in reverse gear” in the global race for green growth, a think tank has warned.

A lack of a green industrial strategy means Britain is lagging behind international competitors in exploiting the economic opportunities of the net zero transition, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said.

At a time when other major powers are supporting the shift, such as through the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States and the EU’s Green Deal Industrial Plan, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent rollback of some net zero policies makes the UK an outlier, the report suggested.

A collaboration between public research, strategic investment, and industry co-ordination seen in other nations is “glaringly absent” in Britain, the left-leaning think tank said.

Its analysis revealed a clear gap between the contribution of green goods and services to gross domestic product (GDP) in the UK and its European counterparts.

The sector contributes just 3.9% to UK GDP compared with 5.8% in the European Union, with the figure soaring to around 11% in Denmark and Sweden.

The shift to net zero offers the potential for up to 2.4% to be added to UK GDP and 1.6 million jobs to be created by 2030, but there is no industrial strategy and not enough public investment to seize the opportunity, the report said.

Conservative Party Conference 2023
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delayed the phase-out of new gas boilers and petrol and diesel cars (Danny Lawson/PA)

“The absence of a robust green industrial strategy is not only a missed economic opportunity but a dereliction of our global responsibility in combating climate change. We must set a new course, capitalising on the green growth potential to spur job creation, innovation, and sustainable prosperity.

“Every further day of inaction is costing us valuable jobs, technological advancements, and a sustainable future.”

IPPR senior research fellow Josh Emden said: “Our analysis highlights the glaring disparity between the UK and its international competitors in harnessing the economic boons of the green sector.

“The road map to net zero is not just a climate necessity but an economic opportunity waiting to be tapped.”

Mr Sunak last month weakened a host of pledges designed to help the UK achieve a net zero economy by 2050, including pushing back the ban on new petrol and diesel cars by five years; weakening plans to strip out polluting gas and oil boilers; and scrapping the requirement for energy efficiency upgrades for homes.

A Government spokesperson said: “This report ignores the fact we are already overdelivering on our targets and cutting emissions faster than any other G7 country.

“We have attracted £200 billion in low carbon investment since 2010 – and our global leadership in clean technologies is expected to attract a further £100 billion in private investment by 2030, helping to support up to 480,000 skilled jobs across the country.

“We have shown a clear strategy for UK manufacturing with a variety of schemes that ensure sectors from auto, to aerospace, to low-carbon technologies, have access to the funding, talent and infrastructure they need.”

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