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2011 set to be pivotal year for UK green business

Louise Bateman
12th January 2011
2011 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for the low carbon economy and green business, according to UK firms and lobby groups.
GreenWise polled 25 firms, NGOs, business groups and commentators for their views on the outlook for the low carbon economy and green business in 2011. While some said it would be a year of mixed fortunes, most said the conditions were right for real progress on reducing carbon emissions and placing sustainability at the heart of business. There was also optimism expressed about the growing commercial opportunities in the market for green goods and services and the greater part businesses will start playing in protecting the world’s ecosystems.

Green policy

On the international front, most felt hopeful that a global climate deal would come about following better than expected progress in Cancun, while at home Government policy around electricity market reform, the Green Deal, Feed-in Tariffs and the Renewable Heat Incentive, were viewed as key measures in 2011 for establishing a low carbon economy.

But the jury is still out on whether the Coalition Government will deliver on its promises to be the "greenest government ever". And there is uncertainty about how recovery from recession, sovereign debt and the UK planning system will affect investment in the low carbon economy in 2011.

Big business
The mood was particularly positive among big business. Paul Turner, head of Sustainable Development, Lloyds Banking Group, said 2011 would be "a good year for the green economy" because of "commodity prices", which would make businesses "look hard at how operational efficiencies can be made".

He said, the Carbon Reduction Commitment "which for many businesses now stands for 'costly, really costly’, is driving efficiency and the Feed-in Tariff is driving innovation. The Green Deal and the Green Investment Bank will also see further development this year. All of these bode well for the 'green’ economy."

Jon Bentley, Smarter Energy lead, IBM Global Business Services UK & Ireland, was "optimistic" about 2011 because major corporations were "returning their attention to issues of sustainability, boosting the market for innovative low carbon solutions". Meanwhile, investment in infrastructure by countries such as China was creating markets for innovative solutions, which would "create a powerful set of new competitors seeking to export domestic solutions".

Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust, added: "We are at a turning point where business is moving from a debate about whether or not the green economy offers opportunity, to an all-out race for competitive advantage in the growing markets for green products and services."

Environmental footprint
There was a sense, too, that 'early movers’ in 2010 had set the foundations for greater environmental responsibility by the business community in 2011.

"Last year, all kinds of multinationals started to look beyond their lesser direct carbon emissions at the greater impacts up and downstream of operations," said Dax Lovegrove, head of Business & Industry at WWF. "We saw the likes of Unilever, Wal-Mart and Tesco set bold ambitions for reducing significant emissions from supply chains and customers at the point of using products."

But such positiveness was tempered by caution, particularly when it came to policy-making and investment.

"Government changes to the planning system could delay investment needed in our low carbon energy infrastructure," warned Rhian Kelly, head of Climate Change at CBI.

View the full breakdown of answers here.

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2011 set to be pivotal year for UK green business
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