Source: Business Green
Ministers need look no further than thriving green industries if they want to trumpet some good news, argues Will Nichols
Imagine, if you will, a country going through financial turmoil. I know this may be difficult, but give it a try.
Let’s say this country we’ve conjured up is indeed a very troubled land, one whose economy has contracted 0.3 per cent over the first three months of this year, forcing its own national statistics body to downgrade its growth forecasts.
Now let’s pretend we are the Chancellor, or even the Business Secretary, of this bleak place, desperately casting around for a good news story to give our recovery plans some credence. And then we come across an industry that despite the all-pervading gloom has managed to grow almost five per cent in the past year and generated a not insignificant £122bn in economic activity.
Well, we’d be hanging out the bunting, wouldn’t we? Shouting from the rooftops and pouring investment into this lone green shoot of recovery, while attempting to infuse the rest of the economy with the same principles that have created such stand out success.
Which makes it all the more strange that this very situation is going on right here, right now in our own beloved UK. I know, you didn’t see that one coming did you?
For these are the very figures reported this week by the rather grandly titled Low Carbon and Environmental Goods and Services (LCEGS) market over the last financial year. And not only has it grown £5.4bn in just 12 months, it has also generated a trade surplus of £5bn and is now supporting the best part of a million jobs – 939,627 to be precise. Plus there’s the huge opportunity of a £3.3tr global market in which UK companies are more than holding their own and are desperate to expand their share.
But perhaps most incredibly, these figures were compiled and published by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which instead of cancelling the Jubilee and handing out cake to every one of those 939,627 people, has instead buried these numbers deep in the cobwebby stat section of its website.
Just to put this in perspective, BIS says the government’s favourite pet industry, car manufacturing, provides 135,000 direct jobs and contributes some £10bn value-added to the UK economy. We never hear the end of even the smallest investments in that sector – witness the hysteria over the 1,500 jobs Jaguar Land Rover created earlier this year. Even the most modest bit of good news prompts a flurry of press releases, a series of ministerial visits, and at least five minutes on the evening news.
But LCEGS, or to give it a catchier name, the green economy, grows at nearly five per cent and adds over 25,000 jobs in one year and this fact is not even deemed important enough for a short press release, let alone a round of ministerial interviews. The BIS press office even seemed a touch surprised when I suggested this was a good news story and they might want to, you know, tell people about it.
It becomes increasingly difficult for the government to continue to argue the green economy is central to its long term recovery plans when it ignores these headline figures. And considering its desparate need for a positive financial story, and the recent green growth speeches by both Clegg and Cameron, overlooking the success of the low carbon sector smacks of staggeringly poor communication.
Unfortunately, back in the real world we seem to be getting rather used to that from a government that has a great green story to tell, if only senior ministers could find the wherewithal to tell it.