Despite the sector now accounting for 8% of UK GDP, many are surprised that more is not being done to capitalise on its success
Green jobs and the growing ranks of green businesses are one of the few bright spots of the UK’s recession hit economy – environmental and low-carbon business now makes up 8% of the UK’s GDP, and provided a third of what growth the economy has seen.
There are now nearly 1 million people employed in green jobs, from biofuels and electric car manufacturing to wind turbine installation, with more than 25,000 jobs created last year. The green sector is now bigger than car manufacturing, aerospace or telecoms, but gets far less of the political attention these established sectors enjoy.
It is a rare story of growth and success at a time of economic gloom and misery. So why are so many in the government so reluctant to talk about it?
The chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, usually keen to trumpet any signs of the economy picking up, has been notably silent on how well the green economy has fared. David Cameron, forced into a defence of energy policy last week at prime minister’s questions, mentioned renewable energy on Wednesday but that was a rare event. Even the Liberal Democrat business secretary, Vince Cable, did not issue a press release this summer when his own department found that the green economy was the biggest single source of growth in the previous year.
Andrew Raingold, chief executive of the Aldersgate Group of companies that includes Asda, BT and Microsoft, said the failure of senior ministers to champion the sector was “very surprising” and likely to put off investors.
Caroline Flint, the shadow energy secretary, said the real reason the government had been reticent on the issue was that an increasing section of the Conservative party were antagonistic to anything associated with the environment – even if that involved economic growth. She said: “The dawning reality is that David Cameron’s pre-election conversion to green issues was nothing more than a PR stunt designed to trick people into thinking the Conservatives had changed, when in reality it was always same old Tory party.”
“David Cameron’s failure of leadership will cost UK plc dearly as we miss out on good-paying clean energy jobs and new low-carbon industries,” she told the Guardian.
Businesses are also frustrated at the lack of political attention and leadership, which they say is hindering attempts to raise investment from overseas. Matt Partridge, development director at REG Wind Power, said: “We are on the cusp of either achieving