Mary Creagh MP (Labour, Wakefield) the shadow environment secretary
The government should be leading negotiations for an ambitious outcome at the Rio+20 Summit in Brazil, yet from yesterday’s announcement on carbon reporting it looks like they are trying to divert attention from their own domestic record on green growth and protecting our natural world.
Snatching the decision from Caroline Spelman, the Defra secretary, may be a further desperate attempt by the Lib Dem leader to differentiate his party from the Tories.
The deputy prime minister’s announcement on carbon reporting has grabbed a few headlines but in reality is the weakest option that the government consulted on. From April 2013 all quoted companies will have to report on their greenhouse gas emissions.
This is a disappointing announcement from an out-of-touch government who are limiting carbon reporting to just 1800 quoted companies, all of whom already have a duty to report their environmental performance.
Labour in government created the legal framework for carbon reporting, as we understand the global competitive advantage and cost savings it will bring to UK plc.
Mandatory carbon reporting for businesses was a key plank of Labour’s Climate Change Act (2008). Section 85 of the act obliges Spelman to introduce mandatory carbon reporting for businesses by 6 April 2012, or to explain why she is not doing so.
Defra’s consultation on options for carbon reporting closed last year. Yet in March, the government quietly tabled a report simply stating:
“No decision has yet been reached.”
David Cameron was quick to parade his “vote blue go green” message in opposition, but in government he has failed every environmental test. When he visited the Arctic in 2006 for his famous hug a husky trip he used the environment to detoxify the Tory brand.
Yet in government, a “doom and gloom, costs and sacrifice” view of the environment has run amok across Whitehall. The government has constructed a false divide between economic growth and environmental protection.
• Budget 2012: The fossil fuel friendly Mr Osborne 27 Mar 2012
This is not just bad news for the environment, it is also holding back UK and international businesses looking to invest in green jobs and technologies.
The pro-business Aldersgate Group whose members include household names such as BT, Pepisco, Sky, United Utilities, Kingfisher, Lend Lease and Nestlé, has urged the government to go further and extend carbon reporting to all large business.
Speaking in March, after Defra’s non-announcement, Peter Young, chair of the Aldersgate Group said:
“Carbon reporting is an essential step to meeting our carbon budgets and to driving efficiency and growth from UK business…
“Business has been patiently waiting for a clear signal to level the playing field on carbon reporting. Voluntary systems have run out of road and the UK risks losing its lead in carbon reporting, accounting and reduction.”
The failure of the government to provide a level playing field for businesses who are doing the right thing and reporting their carbon emissions is causing uncertainty for investors. When Labour left office, investment in alternative energy and clean technology reached £7bn.
The US environmental group PEW ranked the UK third in the world for investment in green technologies. Two years later, the UK has fallen to seventh, as the chancellor has created uncertainty for companies looking to invest in the UK’s world-leading green technologies.
The original Rio declaration in 1992, included ambitious goals on the eradication of poverty, reducing unsustainable production and consumption, and cooperation to protect the world’s ecosystems. This announcement on carbon reporting does not live up to that legacy. We urgently need a new impetus to create the green jobs and growth to lift us out of this double-dip recession.