David Blackburn

The green threat to growth

The green threat to growth
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Luciana Berger is a frequent speaker at this year's conference and her creed is simple: tax energy use to tackle climate change. But, journey along the Mersey, from the glamorous fringe events held on Liverpool’s well rejuvenated quays to the post-industrial wasteland that lies beyond and you discover a different breed of Labour MP.

‘Is the green economy a threat to growth?’ asked Ellesmere MP, Andrew Miller at a seminar earlier this afternoon. Along with his panel - comprised of representatives from the chemical industry, the unions and of Michael Connarty, the MP for East Falkirk and a long-term advocate of the chemical industry – he reached the following conclusion: the current incarnation of the green economy is a threat to energy intensive manufacturing jobs.

Connarty and Steve Elliot of the Chemical Industry Association both said that government initiatives like the Climate Change Levy had made a positive impact on manufacturers, forcing them to be more energy efficient, in turn leading to greater investment in research and development. This was an example of the economic opportunities that issue from the creation of a low carbon economy. But, the panel agreed that excessive levies on energy use are harming comparatively clean industries that directly employ 125,000 people in Britain. These industries are vital to our balance of trade, contributing £30 million a day to GDP. Their prosperity and expansion is vital to our long-term economic recovery.

Connarty pointed out that Britain’s unilateral adoption of carbon floor price on energy consumption and the next phase of the emission’s trading scheme will disadvantage British manufacturers by 10 per cent in comparison to their European competitors, while Europe is already 10 per cent less competitive on energy costs than the rest of the world. “There is no point,” he said in allowing “clean jobs to be exported to dirty economies” in the developing world.

On leaving the windswept marquee in which the event was held, I walked out onto the wasteland that leads from Liverpool’s abandoned upriver docks and looked across the Mersey to the heartland of Britain’s chemical industry. There was a sense that history may repeat itself.