Can we have growth in a resource constrained world? Three MPs debate
- Greg Barker MP, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change
- Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion
- Norman Baker MP, Under-Secretary of State for Transport
GB: Efficiency is a great driver for innovation. Energy efficiency is going to be a benchmark of a prosperous economy.
CL: I agree with much of that. We want to see growth in the renewables sectors – and technology is important in making things in a more efficient way. But if everything is growing, well, we’re on a planet of finite resources, so we can’t go on growing all times in all sectors. We need to reduce our consumption to allow developing companies to develop. We need less stuff, but more efficiently produced. Just having more and more stuff, even if it’s efficient, is no good.
NB: There’s good growth and bad growth. We need to make technology available to make sure that as countries develop, they do so with clean tech and green fuel.
GB: You need an ambitious vision. But the reality is that it’s not at the top of most people’s priority list. We need to take a vision to the wide population. We’ll be doing this with the Green Deal this autumn. It’s a transformational way of approaching energy efficiency. Up until now we’ve relieved on Government initiatives delivered through the energy companies, but there’s been little public appetite. We’re creating new marketplace that will bring in ll sorts of new players. It’s not just selling energy efficiency, but home improvement. We need to make these innovations more consumer-friendly. Going green needs to be an attractive as well as sensible thing to do.
CL: A modified Green Deal would be part of a greener vision. But we have a treasury giving out messages that anything green is a burden on business – and actively lobbying in Europe on that. Greg is right to make this something aspirational. For too long, we have given the impression that being green is about shivering around a candle in a cave. We’ve given that impression for too long. How do we use the best brains in advertising the he alt benefits of a really great bike?
NB: Austerity? No. We’ve got the biggest rail building programme in decades right now. We have to recognise the times we’re in. £560m is there for local sustainable transport schemes.
CL: If the Government was really serious about getting us out of this, they’d be investing (and borrowing to invest) in this, as you’d get the return in jobs.
*Some skirmishing between CL and NB on issues like a third runway at Heathrow, which she claims is back on the agenda, and which he denies. *
GH: There are different ways of pursuing a green agenda. We’re trying to take green measure off consumer bills, and onto general taxation. Good housekeeping and good accounting is compatible with the green economy. If you let people make profits all over the place at the expense of consumers, you will give green a bad name.
CL: But you have contradictor policies. The wholesale price of gas is the biggest driver of fuel bill rises, and what you’ve down is create a new rush for gas.
*CL and GH debate the need for a binding energy efficiency target, with Lucas arguing for one, and Barker suggesting that previous targets have been unrealistic and worthless. He wants a “realistic, worthwhile” target. *
GB: Expecting Sharp to move its solar HQ to the UK in the next week or so. The government ways the UK to become a great place to make renewable systems, not just install them. They want to great new payment methods and investment systems to get encourage development.
CL: We fell from third to 13th in green inward investment last year. We need policy security, and we don’t have it. The government keeps changing it.
NB: Loss of fuel duty from getting people to go into cities on bicycles or foot are offset by the commercial gains from making our town centres more vibrant and friendly without so many cars.
GB: The real engines for growth are the SMEs – we have a third of Europe’s SMEs in the UK. There will be no Green Deal fees for SMEs for the first two years. Encouraging SMEs to come together to offer alternatives to the big energy companies is valuable. Caroline has been doing good work in Brighton on Hove that. People trust companies in their local communities to come into their homes.
CL: We need to go further. We need to make it easier for local companies to take part in procurement processes, and to specify local companies. There are exciting opportunities out there. Brighton & Hove are arguing for faster broadband. Becoming a second tier status city would help that.
GB: Will be working to try and get more uniformity of interpretation of planning guidance amongst local authorities. Pioneer cities – to lead the way on carbon management.
NB: Everything we do need to create growth and cut carbon. The localism agenda isn’t being talked about enough. It’s a huge change – including planning, so you should be able to have more influence what happens in your local area. Localism vision is a way to get buy-in from local people.
CL: We need to get away from “growth” – to prosperity, value, well-being. We need more creativity in planning. You can bring together tackling the deficit and the green agenda. Invest more in the green economy and it’ll help lift us out of recession.
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