Opinion

Responsible Business: Will we see the kick-start of a green economy? If so, who will drive it?

Michael Saxton , 23 Mar 2010

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Next month there is the small matter of the General Election.

It won't have escaped your attention that employment is high on the agenda - not just how to tackle escalating unemployment, but how to train and develop a workforce to meet the demands of the economy.

In addressing these dual concerns much has been made about the potential of the green economy. A quarter of million new green British jobs were pledged by Gordon Brown in the Government's Low Carbon Industrial Strategy. In the blue corner, David Cameron talked about a Green New Deal to create apprenticeships in energy efficiency industries to save money, energy and the environment. And in February Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg launched a green jobs manifesto pledge. However, the recession delivered one big kick in the balls to the green economy: shrinkage in the job market, with non-essential projects axed.

So now that the economy is displaying signs of recovery, will we see the kick-start of a green economy and, if so, who will drive it? Will it require the interventionist policy framework of government or will investors and business put their money in? It is tempting to look to the US for an answer. That is where the link between recovery and green jobs is most tangible. Green job creation has been core to Barack Obama's change agenda. A massive green fiscal package was put in place to get things moving, focused primarily on renewable energy. US energy secretary Steven Chu wrote on his Facebook page that this was all about "ensuring America leads the world in creating jobs in manufacturing the parts that go into wind farms".

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But not everyone is happy. Republican-tinged bloggers are furious that the stimulus package favours overseas companies that take US export components to build the technology vital for a low-carbon economy. They might be more credible if US firms were queuing up to take advantage of the stimulus money, but they are not. As a result, the money goes to where it can be spent, leaving US taxpayers feeling their money is by-passing US workers.

It's an issue that raises potentially awkward problems for our government and UK businesses to solve around policy, investment and skills in the green economy.

No one should imagine that the green economy will be able to re-ignite rapid growth.

But what do you think? Debate the subject on the HR website - community.hrmagazine.co.uk

- Michael Saxton is founder of Greenpoint PR.

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