Wed, 11 Apr 2012
At a speech at ‘Canary Wharf’s greenest building’, the KPMG headquarters, Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:
There is a myth doing the rounds in political debate today:
That, here in the UK, environmentalism has hit a wall.
That green is for the good times.
We cannot up our efforts to protect our environment...
While simultaneously growing our economy.
That we have to make a choice.
The story goes something like this:
Up until just a few years ago, the green movement was approaching a kind of heyday.
Europe had agreed a plan to combat global warming.
In the UK, the major political parties had united behind the Climate Change Act...
Enshrining our carbon reduction commitments in law.
Al Gore's “An Inconvenient Truth” was a box office hit.
In affluent societies, as sustained growth satisfied citizens' basic needs...
Climate change was graduating from niche issue to mainstream concern.
Then: the credit crunch happened.
The global economy was plunged into unprecedented turmoil.
And, ever since, economic recovery has overtaken every other social and environmental priority.
The assumption is that cash-strapped citizens cannot be expected to live more sustainably:
They have other, more urgent worries to contend with.
Struggling businesses must be liberated from burdensome environmental regulations.
And the upshot, we are told, is that our environmental ambitions must, temporarily, take a back seat.
But this new wisdom, however widely held, is utterly wrong.
Yes, right now climate change may be lower down some people' thoughts.
Yes, we need to be sensitive to businesses' needs.
But in so many ways, for so many consumers, for so many firms...
Going green has never made so much sense.
How can we relieve some of the pressure on hard-up households?
By helping families use less energy to cut their bills.
How can we rebalance our economy away from its overreliance on the City of London?
By capitalising on our competitive edge in green industries...
Generating jobs and wealth outside of London and the South East.
How will we find the money needed to renew our infrastructure?
By competing successfully in the global low carbon market...
To attract billions of pounds worth of outside investment to the UK.
And, as we make our way along this choppy recovery...
How can we better shield bill payers from price shocks in oil and gas?
By depending less on fossil fuels...
By producing more clean energy ourselves.
It is simply not true that you have to give up on the green economy if you want to grow.
The countries powering away from the recession...
Germany, China, Korea, Brazil...
Are investing heavily in low carbon industries.
Nor is it true that the best way to unleash growth is through a bonfire of environmental protections.
That's why, for example, I was determined we get the balance right in our planning reforms - as many of you were.
So not development-at-any-cost.
But sustainable development, driven by local needs.
Our dilemma is not choosing between green and growth.
It's marrying the two.
Lean times can be green times
I won't pretend that is easy.
While austerity need not be the death of environmentalism...
It does create challenges.
While greening our lifestyles and decarbonising our economy might be the right thing to do...
For millions of people, it doesn't always feel like the easy thing to do, especially now.
But, while sceptics say that it's all too difficult at a time of deep fiscal consolidation...
That economic uncertainty poses too many challenges...
I say that periods of economic reinvention force us to do things differently.
I say that lean times can be green times too.
Just think about today's Britain:
A nation burned by its excesses.
Paying the price for years spent living on borrowed time and borrowed money.
A nation turning the page on a culture of reckless consumption...
Where we sacrificed tomorrow to get-rich-quick today.
A nation thriftier, more frugal, more careful than before.
Determined to clean up this generation's mess and leave a better legacy for our children.
We are undergoing a profound transformation within our economy.
And for the first time ever our economic and environmental mantras are exactly the same:
Waste not, want not.
Whether it's waste of energy, waste of money, waste of our potential...
We are focused on conserving our precious resources.
Responsibility and sustainability are the watchwords of the day.
And that creates a unique opportunity to put environmental thrift into the mainstream.
As we learn to live within our economic means...
We can learn to live within our environmental means too.
To do that, we have to stop treating the environment like an add on; an afterthought.
We must show that, in so many ways, consumer interests, business interests and green interests are the same.
We have to give people the practical help to make more sustainable choices.
Where the benefits of going green are clear.
Of course, the environment contributes to our economy in a range of ways...
Many we don't always appreciate.
For example, anyone who's been on the Southbank this morning will have seen Friends of the Earth have turned it into a wildflower meadow...
To publicise the importance of bees to UK GDP.
Because bee populations are in decline and Friends of the Earth estimate it would cost farmers £1.8bn a year to pollinate their crops without them.
I plan to say more about the importance of natural capital in the coming months.
I'll be representing the UK at the Rio+20 Summit in the summer...
Where I'll be pushing for greater global protections for our natural assets.
But there are two specific areas I want to focus on today.
Two areas where going green is in the clear interests of individual families and the wider economy...
And where Government is doing everything we can to help consumers and businesses go green.
One: through a radical new approach to energy efficiency to cut emissions and bills.
Two: through building up the low carbon sectors on which our future prosperity depends.
Going green is good for consumers: energy efficiency
First, energy efficiency.
The UK still has some of the most energy inefficient buildings in Europe.
Fifteen million homes - more than half - are not properly insulated.
That's costing us in carbon:
A third of our emissions come from heating our homes.
And it's costing us in pounds:
Adding hundreds, every year, to bills for the most inefficient homes.
So the case for saving energy is compelling.
It fits perfectly with the waste not, want not mentality.
But we can't just preach at people.
We can't just demand everyone turns off their lights.
That has never worked before and it certainly won't work now.
Instead we have to understand and dismantle the obstacles that can put people off.
One problem is the hassle factor.
Of course, there's only so much Government can do here.
And making home improvements can be temporarily disruptive.
But there are ways to minimise that disruption...
And we are working with business to test innovative solutions.
For example, we've been working with B&Q and Sutton Council to see if offering a loft clearance service makes a difference.
B&Q clear your loft for you;
You go through your belongings while they install the insulation;
They put back the things you want to keep;
And everything else gets taken to Cancer Research shops to be sold for charity.
The first trial found that people were three times more likely to go for this than straight insulation.
Another problem is awareness
Very few of us really know how much energy we use.
So we have replaced extraordinarily confusing Energy Performance Certificates with a much clearer document...
Showing, in simple terms, the cost of fuelling your home...
And the potential savings of using less energy.
From the summer, we'll be trialling a new project with First Utility and America's OPOWER...
Where consumers are told how much energy other, similar households use.
Working with US utilities, OPOWER has helped encourage American households to reduce consumption by around 2%.
That may not sound a lot, but it soon adds up.
In the States, they've helped reach around 11 million homes...
So far saving people around $85m.
We want to see what the same approach could achieve here.
And, of course, the biggest barrier for many people is the prospect of expense.
So that’s where we are providing most help.
The Government's Green Deal, which we'll begin rolling out in the Autumn...
Will offer businesses and homeowners energy saving home improvements...
But at no upfront cost.
Customers will have energy saving measures installed in their homes by trusted suppliers...
From high street brands to local traders.