Achieving a sustainable economy is a central theme of Green Alliance’s work. We mainly focus on the importance and contribution of the green economy to the overall macroeconomy. These issues are regularly discussed on our blog.
in 2014 and 2015 Green Alliance hosted a series of five exclusive seminars with senior economists, for think tanks, NGOs and businesses, interrogating the economic orthodoxies underpinning green policy and the arguments that surround them.
Audio is available for these events which provided expert insights on the following questions:
UK infrastructure Investing in a low carbon economy
If the UK is going to build a low carbon economy fit for the 21st century, it is going to need to invest in new infrastructure. Green Alliance has approached this issue in various ways.
Our 2016 briefing revealed that for the first year since 2012, the trend of rising high carbon investment and falling low carbon investment in the UK has reversed, primarily because of a decline in private sector investment in high carbon assets, rather than a strategic change in UK government priorities.
Our 2015 report, Opening up infrastructure planning, set out three fundamental problems with the current state of infrastructure decision making and made three proposals for how these should be best tackled.
Also in 2015, we published a report for Scotland’s Low Carbon Infrastructure Task Force, which showed the opportunities for increasing its investment in low carbon infrastructure, and as a result, the benefits in terms of tackling climate change, economic progress, and social welfare.
Our 2013 infographic, The future of UK infrastructure, showed the UK was ahead in the global trend to make new infrastructure low carbon. Alongside large scale projects, there was major change occurring through a multitude of small scale projects and activities, modernising and improving our underlying energy infrastructure. It was launched at an event with shadow chancellor Rt Hon Ed Balls MP, in July 2013. This was the basis for a high level expert discussion; this slide pack sets out the conclusions.
Green Alliance has also participated in a project led by the Institution of Civil Engineers, contributing to the ‘National Needs Assessment’, which feeds into the work of the National Infrastructure Commission.
Our 2012 infographic analysis, Green economy: a UK success story, showed that, despite the recession, the UK's green economic sector has been performing strongly. Worth £122 billion in 2011 (9.3 per cent of GDP) it provided nearly a million jobs.
Green growth at a glance compared UK green economy performance with Germany's. It showed the UK performing better than many would expect in the clean technology sector, but highlighted that Germany's overall strength has been a product of clear and consistent policy.
Sustainable savingsUsing tax subsidies to build a more sustainable economy
The mainstream financial sector is continuing to invest consumers' savings in high carbon industries. As the economy shifts towards low carbon this is a possible threat to the long term viability of pension schemes. It is also holding back investment from low carbon technologies and companies.
In 2012, we examined how government tax breaks for savings, such as ISAs and pensions, which amount to around £40 billion a year, could be used to mobilise more funds for sustainable investments.
We ran focus groups to understand the attitudes of young professionals from Generation Y to finance and sustainability. Our 2014 report identifies four recommendations to government and the personal finance sector for ensuring that pensions and other savings products work in the long-term interests of Generation Y. The future savings challenge was highly commended in the 2015 Farsight Awards, recognising originality, quality, readability, sophistication, depth and financial usefulness.
The idea of an active industrial policy for the UK is gaining ground once more and Green Alliance is exploring what a modern industrial policy should look like.
Policy makers need to avoid the mistakes of the past, where attempts to ‘pick winners’ often ended in failure. The emphasis is now more on the role of the government as an enabler, bringing parties together to identify the problems which the government can solve.
The emerging green economy is a sector that could particularly benefit from an industrial policy to stimulate investment and well targeted innovation.
Our work on the circular economy has identified how government can help to foster the collaboration between sectors and through the supply chain which is needed to increase UK resource productivity.
Macroeconomics of resourcesImproving the efficiency of resource use and reuse
Over the past decade, world prices of key resources have risen sharply, meaning prices paid by UK households for food and energy have gone up much more quickly than other prices. We analysed the impact of this on the UK economy and living standards.
Our work demonstrated that, if resource prices had just kept pace with other consumer prices, the average household could have saved over £1,000 on its food and household energy bills in 2012. And the poorest would be the hardest hit. We showed that if this trend were to continue household food and energy bills could have risen by another £1,675 over and above general inflation by 2020.
We argued that the only reliable way to protect the UK economy against these resource price shocks in future would be to improve radically the efficiency of our resource use and reuse, reducing dependency on foreign imports