Green agenda worth it just for economic gains, UK adviser says

Conservative MP Chris Skidmore says Britain should pursue net zero even if there were no climate crisis

Tory MP Chris Skidmore has written a review of UK climate policies. Getty
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Britain should pursue a green agenda even if there were no climate crisis, a leading adviser has said.

Chris Skidmore said the potential economic rewards alone would make net-zero policies worthwhile.

Mr Skidmore, a Conservative MP asked to review the net-zero mission, said the UK would miss out on jobs in green industries such as hydrogen, batteries, chemicals and carbon capture if it did not fully embrace the 2050 goal.

It comes as the government shifts the focus of energy policy towards ensuring economic stability after the war in Ukraine.

Climate Minister Graham Stuart said Britain had yet to “optimise the economic opportunity” of the green transition.

Speaking at an event in London on Monday, Mr Skidmore said: “Even if there wasn’t a climate crisis, which there clearly is, we should be seeking to deliver net zero for the overall benefits it will bring our economy and our society.”

Britain was already in a “global net-zero race” in which it could either lead the way or be left behind, Mr Skidmore said.

He said: “Net zero isn’t just a tool to solve the climate crisis, it has become the primary economic tool to deliver growth, to restore industry and manufacturing, to create new jobs and to regenerate regions and local communities.

“This isn’t happening simply to tackle climate change. Countries recognise that net zero is creating the industries and economies of the future, and with it, establishing the supply chains and economic opportunities that need to be seized now before they go elsewhere.”

Scaling back ambition would see Britain “turn our back on that investment, turn our back on the growth and the jobs that are waiting to be had”, he said.

The UK is aiming for a huge expansion of offshore wind. Getty

Mr Skidmore, a former energy minister, published a 340-page review last week that called for 10-year projects to develop key industries such as hydrogen and heat pumps. The government said it would consider his 129 recommendations.

He welcomed the UAE’s ambassador to the launch event on Monday, as the country prepares to host Cop28. Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and UAE special envoy for climate change, was last week named President-designate of the summit.

Mr Stuart, the Climate Minister, said the pressure of high energy prices made net-zero policies “more important than ever”.

Britain has plans to increase its low-carbon power generation while also extracting more oil and gas from its North Sea reserves.

“There are many roads to the green transition, each of them with their own economic implications, and indeed political implications if we’re to maintain consensus and broad public support,” Mr Stuart said.

“That must be a road that enables us to achieve economic growth, energy security and affordability for all, ensuring that we don’t place undue burdens on British businesses and households across the country even as we seek to lead the world.”

Updated: January 16, 2023, 4:04 PM