I wonder if the Department of Energy and Climate Change caught Nick Clegg’s recent speech on green growth.
The Department for Business certainly did, as the Deputy Prime Minister responded to comment from some quarters following the recent Budget that the government was abandoning green in favour of any growth.
It was nice to see the DPM articulating a version of what Intellect have been saying for a while – green and growth go together very handily in the UK, now more than ever, and the two are certainly not in competition – at least not if policy is constructed properly.
Clegg was keen to emphasise a policy environment which enables business to grow in the UK and also go green, highlighting the carbon floor price and climate change levy (but not the Carbon Reduction Commitment any more – victory for Intellect on that one I think).
The speech represented progress in many ways for what we have been saying, but it also highlighted where the next battle lies in our efforts to get carbon policy which can work effectively with a growing ICT sector in the UK.
Namely that he didn’t mention ICT.
There was a paragraph which could almost have been lifted from our myriad of submissions to government over the last couple of years:
We need to be realistic about the time transition will take, which is why we’re looking at how we ensure these companies aren’t disproportionately affected by some of our measures. Because, let’s be clear, it is in no one’s interests for these industries to pack up and go abroad. They are vital for UK jobs. Their products – steel, chemicals – are critical to green industry. And would we rather have them here, where we can help them cut their emissions? Or in countries with lower environmental standards and ambitions?
Clegg has grasped the basic point, but he, and the departments, continue to look at it in terms of traditional heavy manufacturing sectors they are familiar with (‘steel, chemicals’) when they should be including ICT in that list – particularly if we are to make the UK the technology capital of Europe as articulated by the Chancellor and PM recently.
The ICT industry in the UK, principally data centres, is both a key enabler of the low carbon economy and a rapidly growing, very energy intensive industry which is taking its own steps to improve efficiency while being handcuffed by unsuitable policy.
We continue to make this point – hopefully the next speech will make this leap.