Green economy is four times the size of UK manufacturing

Britain's low-carbon economy is worth £205.7bn and employs 1.28 million people

The UK’s growing green economy is bigger than both the manufacturing and construction sectors, reveals analysis by environmental experts.

More than 1.2 million people are employed by 75,000 companies in green jobs from turbine manufacturing to recycling plants, a new report by kMatrix Data Services found.

It says the UK’s low-carbon economy is worth £205.7bn ($285bn) and that, using its methodology, kMatrix found the manufacturing sector to be worth £55.6bn and the construction sector £132.9bn.

“The sector is larger than most people think it is. This is because we measure the obvious activities, but also those within the chains and networks of supply,” report author Sarah Howard tole The National.

“That is important because those supply chains need to be in place for the sector to function and grow. The supply chains need as much attention as the obvious activities and all of it needs the right environment to grow,” she said.

kMatrix produces annual assessments of the low-carbon economy. Its methodology, while different to the UK government’s official Office for National Statistics, includes green supply chains and broader categories for the wind and solar sectors.

The UK’s low-carbon and environmental goods and services sector grew by 7.4 per cent during the financial year 2018/19 to 2019/20 and contracted by 9 per cent during 2019/20 to 2020/21, as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the world.

Employment in the sector grew year on year from 2007/08 to 2019/20, before contracting during 2020/21. Employment peaked in 2019/20 at 1.48 million jobs and in 2020/21 had dropped to 1.28 million people, but is expected to bounce back post-Covid.

In the build-up to the Cop26 environmental summit, being held in Glasgow in November, the UK and other national governments have been announcing ever-more-ambitious targets for carbon zero programmes.

In the UK, there has been frustration as the government also announced plans to push ahead with opening a coal mine and new oil projects.

Last month, Chris Stark, the chief executive of the Climate Change Committee, said “progress was illusory”.

And yesterday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the global tipping point would arrive a decade earlier than projected only three years ago.

Prof Patrick Devine-Wright of Exeter University and a lead author with the IPCC said the green economy needed to spread across many aspects of daily life, from transport to food, if it was to be a success.

He said it was vital everyone pulled together to ensure green projects beat other visions and were the priority in government decisions.

“We need everybody to pull together or we have no chance of meeting these ambitious targets and staving off what are going to be really, really damaging climate consequences,” Prof Devine-Wright said.

“We need nothing less than a societal process of transformation in place alongside this vision of new technology, devices and infrastructures.

“Unless we connect all those dots up, I don’t think it is going to happen in the timescale that is required.”

Updated: August 10th 2021, 1:00 PM