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Green economy? Wot green economy?

By Hamish Champ
Posted 6 December 2012

Watching the Chancellor of the Exchequer deliver his Autumn Statement yesterday – delivered on a day blighted in many areas by wet snow rather than the gentle drift of golden leaves – was a fairly depressing experience.

In what sounded like an exercise in distancing himself from bad news George Osborne highlighted the great work being undertaken by the chaps at the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which had forecast lower than expected rates of growth for the UK economy.

The deficit will take longer to get down as a percentage of national income, he added. Great. Meanwhile the OBR says the UK has a "better than 50% chance of eliminating the structural current deficit in five years’ time", meaning the original target has gone back a year. Great again. Cue what the BBC describes as a “fresh benefit squeeze and a raid on the pensions of the wealthy”, the latter via a cut in tax allowances.

There were plenty of reasons why we were in such a mess, Osborne opined, pointing to the party opposite him in the chamber of the House of Commons for leaving the country thus in the financial lurch, and metaphorically gesturing towards countries in the Eurozone, where economic woes are a-plenty and show little sign of abating.

As well as an exercise in political grand-standing Osborne’s speech was a stat-fest, with growth and borrowing forecasts in percentages tripping equally off the tongue, lists of numbers stretching years ahead.

Quite how such credence can be given to a highly specific rate of borrowing in 2017 when no-one knows what the economy will look like then is open to debate. But then the Chancellor has to say something, and forecasting is Big Business.

The statement was bad news if you were on any form of benefit, particularly things like job seekers allowance, which is one of a number which will undergo a cut in real terms in the coming years.

Similarly if you were someone squirreling money away in Swiss bank account sin the hope of dodging the UK taxman, forget it; George is onto you.

The good news – what there was of it – came in the form of investment in infrastructure projects, help for firms which export, and a new gas strategy, flagged earlier this week.

However, save a passing reference to renewable energies, of green economic policies there was little mention.

So I agree with Chris Dow of Closed Loop Recycling when he laments what appears to be a(nother) missed opportunity.

Green industries and support therefor should be seen as chance to grow jobs and alter the mindset of industry in the UK, rather than being treated as an economic cost, the Closed Loop boss argues. 

Dow urges the government not to park the green economy for the next generation, “but to ensure green businesses such as ours receive the right signals for investment and growth opportunities”.

I can’t imagine many people disagreeing with the sentiment that the right framework for an environmentally aware and responsive economic strategy ought to up for consideration.

Well, maybe anyone apart from a few Tory MPs. And the Chancellor of the Exchequer…

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