The simple answer to question of Have we got the balance right on climate change? was re-evaluating the approach to climate change policy because the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach of the previous Government did not work. This was the message from Climate Change Minister Greg Barker.
Speaking at the EEF sponsored fringe event with the Enterprise Forum at the Conservative party conference, the minister said that in terms of rebalancing the economy, DECC did its part in ‘rediscovering the importance of making more things and making Britain a hub for manufacturing’ but felt the green economy was more than just clean, green technology innovation. He said these were ‘tough times’ financially and for the green agenda and that the green economy was not insulated from other market factors the economy was facing.
The event, titled “Carrot or stick? Have we got the balance right on climate change?” also included panellists Steve Radley, EEF Director of Policy; Tim Morris, Head of Climate Change at Tata Steel; and Dustin Benton, Senior Policy Adviser at the Green Alliance. The event was chaired by Andrew Cumpsty, Chairman of the Enterprise Forum, and was well attended with representatives from industry, trade bodies, the media as well as Conservative party members.
The Minister welcomed the broad cross party support for climate change policies, but argued that the previous government had too narrow a focus on short term carbon targets without considering wider impact on the economy.
Barker argued that ‘green politics 2.0’ was about taking the green agenda beyond a ‘silo’ of a small part of economy and embedding it across the wider economy. Importantly, he stated that he wanted to ensure that advanced manufacturing was not de-emphasised or sent abroad as result of UK climate change policies.
Following these remarks, EEF’s Steve Radley argued that green and growth policies should go hand in hand. He noted that half of EEF’s members saw big opportunities in being in being part of the supply chain for green industries, and that the key question was whether the conditions are right to invest. He pointed out that manufacturers were becoming increasingly mobile and that companies of all sizes were being encouraged to look at alternative locations partly due to energy costs in the UK.
Dustin Benton from the Green Alliance said there was a case to make for regulation. In the context of electricity market reform, he said that contract for difference feed-in tariffs were a potentially ‘big carrot’ but warned that emissions performance standards and the carbon floor price had the potential to be ‘big sticks’. He argued that raising the CFP was effective, but suggested the recycling of carbon floor price incomes would be a good idea.
Tim Morris from Tata Steel stated that energy intensive industries such as steel and ceramics would be the backbone of a low carbon economy. He said Tata was deeply committed to combating climate change, with lots of investment going into research and development, and pointed out that an important precursor to achieving a low carbon economy was the consideration of an international context for energy intensive industries.
He called on the Government should do more to support the UK’s supply chains, and in terms of ‘sticks’ he said that a level playing field was important and criticised the CFP for making the UK less competitive than it’s European neighbours.
After an interesting Q & A, the Minister stated that manufacturing must be at the centre of the UK economy and that it was important that Government is on the side of advanced manufacturing.