A St George’s House Consultation

Tuesday 10 to Wednesday 11 April 2012

The problem of how to square economic growth with green policies is clearly beyond the Chancellor George Osborne, but can be neatly expressed by the following formula:
RC + MJ = GG

Where RC stands for reduced carbon, MJ for more jobs and GG for Green Growth. Although there is widespread concern as to the effect that environmental policies will have on economic growth, it needs to be recognized that the two are interdependent. If the Greenland ice-sheet melts, and this may only take a few hundred years the way things are going, then world sea levels will rise by 7 metres and that is goodbye to London, New York, New Orleans and Bangladesh. From a purely economic point of view this is likely to have a significant impact.

For those who want chapter and verse on Green Growth then a 700 page report by Sir Nicholas Stern (The Stern Review) is available through HMG publications. For those Captains of Industry who don’t have time to read a 700 page report, an executive summary is also available (Stern, N. (2006). “Stern Review on The Economics of Climate Change: Executive Summary”. (HM Treasury, London)

This is the third and last consultation in the climate change series. Day 1 will focus on (i) the main sources of COemissions: transport and power generation (ii) technologies that can mitigate the use of fossil fuels (eg fuel efficiency, biofuels) and (iii) technologies that can reduce the release of CO2 into the atmosphere (eg carbon capture). It will also examine why large international companies feel it necessary to massively increase  their carbon footprints by flying food around the  world and wrapping it up in multiple layers of plastic.

Day 2 will focus on the business opportunities presented to the UK by the need to mitigate and adapt to climate change. It will also examine the vexed question of waste-disposal and whether this can be done in an ecofriendly manner.

Our Consultation will attempt to forge a bridge between two fundamental philosophies: that of Industrialisation and Economic Growth and that of people who rely upon a stable and sustainable environment. In other words, is there common ground between those that cherish and nurture the planet and those that exploit and plunder it for profit?

Below is a quotation taken from a letter written by Chief Seattle of the Dwamish Indians in 1855 in response to a proposal from the US Government to buy some of their land. The philosophical choice is between that of the “uneducated savage” or that of the “white man”.

“How can you buy or sell the sky? We do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle on the water. How then can you buy them from us? Every part of the Earth is sacred to my people, holy in their memory and experience. We know that the white man does not understand our ways. He is a stranger that comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The Earth is not his friend, but his enemy, and when he’s conquered it, he moves on. He kidnaps the Earth from his children. His appetite will devour the Earth and leave behind a desert. If all the beasts were gone, we would die from a great loneliness of the spirit. For whatever befalls the beasts happens also to us. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth, befalls the children of the Earth.”

Reproduced in Seeing Green, published by Jonathon Porritt in 1984.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, what are the practical steps that can help us avoid such a calamity?

“Archimedes said, ‘Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth.’ In his case he was talking about levers and as a scientist he was keen to demonstrate a point. Today, we need government to provide the levers. A clear green agenda, tax breaks for the innovators, taxes for the polluters, an obligation to plan rather than obstruct, and firm but fair regulation.”   Neil Grundon. Tuesday 14 June, 2011. Putting Policy into Action: A Review of English Waste Policy

Finally, a quotation that should underpin everyone’s attitude to the problem of reconciling economic prosperity and man’s feeble attempts to mitigate the potentially disastrous effects of climate change: “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment”.  Colin Wurth, Advisor to President Clinton

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