The UK needs to invest in its green economy now

As the UK has fallen behind on green growth and lost 50% of its natural biodiversity, the government must include business in its environmental strategy.

The UK needs to invest in its green economy now

As the UK has fallen behind on green growth and lost 50% of its natural biodiversity, the government must include business in its environmental strategy.

Since taking office last year, Rishi Sunak has faced widespread criticism for his lack of political leadership on climate and nature issues. The absence of environmental issues in Sunak’s five key priorities for 2023 has caused concern among activists and academics that climate change is slipping down the UK political agenda. 

Several business leaders have also expressed their displeasure at the government’s green agenda, with the CBI’s director general Tony Danker warning that the UK is falling behind on the green energy transition.

This is a critical moment both for the health of the planet and the UK economy. It is not too late for a path towards a greener and more economically resilient future, but getting there will require stronger leadership than we’ve seen to date.

The climate and biodiversity crisis 

The planet has reached a crisis point. Globally, biodiversity continues to decline, with the number of threatened animal species twice that of 2007. In the UK, only 50% of natural levels of biodiversity remain. 

This problem is closely entwined with global warming, as natural ecosystems such as forests and moors serve as important carbon sinks. In fact, the destruction of forests is said to be responsible for around 10% of global warming.

The power of green growth

Despite the government’s commitment to economic growth, the UK is yet to fully embrace the economic opportunities presented by clean energy, net zero technology and green tech more broadly. The CBI estimates that the UK has lost £4.3 bn in green-technology market share in the last two years, while the US has embraced green growth opportunities by introducing incentives for green manufacturing and heavily investing in climate-related projects as part of its Inflation Reduction Act.

One area in the UK where progress is being made is in property development, with the Environment Act making it mandatory for businesses to deliver biodiversity net gain on new developments from November 2023. Even though this legislation is a step in the right direction, there is still plenty of scope for businesses from other sectors to get involved in environmental protection, and it is here that the government can do more to compel companies to act.

The leading role of business in a green economy

Making the most of green growth opportunities will require a shift in mindset away from viewing environmental protection as a cost, towards understanding it as a potential source of business growth. 

Increased biodiversity protection could generate business opportunities worth an estimated $10 trillion by 2030. With many businesses depending on natural resources such as clean water or fertile soil to generate profits, businesses have a strong commercial incentive to lead the way on protecting nature. 

According to a recent report published by Ground Control, 82% of business leaders say that biodiversity is personally very important to them. It is now time for business leaders to convert this individual desire to protect nature into action. Equipped with significant financial resources and firepower, they are in a strong position to build back the UK’s biodiversity levels. Supporting rewilding projects, developing sustainable business solutions or acting as innovators in the green tech space are a few examples of ways to get involved. 

Creating a combined strategy for economic growth and environmental protection

There’s a common misconception that generating economic growth and protecting the environment are separate, or perhaps even opposing, aims. In reality, finding new solutions to climate and biodiversity protection is not only morally important but also mutually reinforcing. For the UK to remain competitive on the global economic stage, we need business to be a core part of the government’s environmental strategy and drive investment in green infrastructure and technology now.

Jason Knights
Jason Knights

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