10 March 2011

Labour want “joined-up” approach to green research and industry

Labour’s business secretary calls for a more joined-up approach when it comes to business and climate change policy, at a Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) lecture (9 March).

John Denham, Shadow Business Secretary and formerly Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills under Gordon Brown, spoke about science and growth at CaSE’s annual distinguished lecture.

Following the lecture Denham spoke to Climate Action about how he thinks government can maximise the UK’s science and engineering potential when it comes to tackling climate change.

“You have to have your investment in research right but you’ve also got to be fairly clear about the markets that you’re going to create,” he said.

He believes that sending out the right signals to people in the renewable energy field will be critical to the government’s current review of the UK electricity market.

Clean tech business owners are frustrated by the uncertainty surrounding policy because schemes have been abandoned or altered before companies can see the benefits, according to Denham.

“You cannot say to people, here’s a business opportunity, here’s a market, utilise the technology, train staff, and then change the rules halfway along the way.”

At last month’s Sustainable Development 2011 event, this was an issue that came up regularly.

Niall Thorburn of British Gas told a debate panel at the event that there is a deficit in clarity when it comes to policy and noted that this clarity is what is required for confident investment.

Panel member, Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth’s Policy and Campaigns Director, criticised governments, past and present, on this issue and gave the example of feed-in tariffs where it has reduced business’ confidence in green tech.

“You’ve had this situation where it’s [the feed-in tariff] introduced finally, after a huge amount of effort, then we, Friends of the Earth and others, had to work very hard to make sure it was retained in the Comprehensive Spending Review and now they’ve [the coalition government] announced a review of it.

“It’s the worst possible action by government you could ever have if what you want is a growing sector and jobs in a clean tech industry.”

However, Denham admits Labour currently has no “really forward-looking policy” that would address these issues because they are in the midst of a two-year policy review process.

“But of course along the way we do have to respond to particular issues and I know that Meg Hillier [Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary] is giving a lot of thought at the moment to how we’ll respond to the energy market review and the likely legislation next year.”

Denham expects to start setting out some of Labour’s views on Coalition policies within the next year.

For further information:

John Denham MP

Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE)

Sustainable Development 2011

Images: Imran Khan | CaSE

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