Last modified: 30 August 2012
Image: Andy Hay
Environmental groups, politicians and businesses are hailing the strength of the south east’s green economy after a new report shows how it has quietly turned into a local success story in the face of the wider economic downturn.
The report, Green Economy: A UK Success Story, published today by the Green Alliance along with RSPB, WWF, Greenpeace and Christian Aid, takes new figures and officially published Government statistics on the strength of the green economy.
It reveals that the sector has shown recession resilience, growing healthily since the banking crisis.
While the general economy will only return to 2007 levels by 2014 at the earliest, the green economy will have grown by 40% in that same period.
The south east region is one of those leading the way with nearly 120,000 low carbon and environmental jobs in 2010-11, more than the motor trades (80,400) and telecommunications (36,600) put together.
Chris Corrigan, RSPB south east regional director, said: “We’ve shown this summer we can stand at the centre of the world stage when it comes to sport. But when it comes to forging a healthy green business sector we also have a lot to be proud of here in the south east.”
The report states that the vast majority of private sector investment last year went into low carbon projects (£14.5bn). High carbon infrastructure only attracted £1.2bn of private sector money – relying far more on public spending.
The south east has seen £297m of renewables investment and nearly two and half thousand renewables jobs announced in the last financial year.
The region also saw 153% increase in installed renewables capacity from 2007 to 2010 and generated 2436 gigawatt per hour of power through renewables in 2010.
Catherine Bearder, Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament for the South East, said: “Too many people think it’s about saving the environment or helping the economy. This shows we can tackle both problems at the same time. It’s a real win, win.
“We are in difficult economic times and it is often easy to side-line the green agenda as we attempt to steady the ship. But eco business is booming in the region and it is proving to be a fertile ground for green jobs and investment.
“Companies are beginning to realise they can make money and improve the environment at the same time. The coalition’s pledge to become the Greenest Government ever is starting to bear fruit and we must ensure this continues.”
Robert Hunt, Veolia Environmental Services’ Executive Director said: “This year alone we have commissioned £260m of new recycling and recovery infrastructure including a new facility in central London. This is great evidence of the green economy in practice – creating jobs and a sustainable city.”
Funding from the Landfill Communities Fund has been secured from various Veolia Trusts for work at RSPB nature reserves.
Mr Corrigan added: “From the renewable energy industry to the development of low carbon technology and the work done by sectors such as the water industry to transform themselves into environmental champions, we are proving ourselves as world leaders.
“This area has grown while others have faltered in choppy financial waters, reflecting a high level of private sector confidence in green businesses with billions of pounds of investment pouring in. This is down to strong and ambitious environmental targets which have been set by political leaders.
“But it is only the beginning. One million people are currently employed in providing low carbon and environmental goods and services and that figure is growing.
“We must ensure the right policies are in place to keep this momentum going – so that green businesses can help speed our economic recovery and strengthen the fight against climate change.”