Rating reactions; assessing Conservative competence to govern

From boardrooms to NGOs, reactions on the new Government are coming thick and fast. Our green business expert Giles Crosse assesses how welcome the Tories really are.

The UK has spoken, giving David Cameron the chance to govern. The rush is now on to influence his Ministers. The lobbying calls hint at the conflicts, partnerships and denials that will define the next few years.

What does the green business sector think?

Overall, shares for British firms rose by some £50 billion following Friday’s Tory victory. But longer term value can only come if Cameron listens to what trade bodies and individual firms really need.

The Energy Networks Association (ENA) represents firms maintaining the UK’s energy infrastructure. Seeking better development and deployment of smart technology, it is typical of many trade bodies hoping the administration will legislate with a steady hand.

“The networks are a critical part of ensuring secure, affordable and sustainable energy into the future, but for long term investment to benefit consumers, regulation should be consistent and independent.” said ENA Chief Executive David Smith.

Smith wants clear direction and certainty on network investment from the Tories, catalysing smarter networks of the future while keeping costs down.

Speaking more broadly, John Cridland, Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Director-General, has welcomed the appointment of Sajid Javid as Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

“We need policies to bolster our supply chains, and to make the UK the destination of choice for manufacturing high-value products.”

A career banker, Javid left a post at Deutsche Bank worth an estimated £3 million to join the Conservatives. The Independent believes Javid’s past work in the Treasury, ‘may make for smoother relations between the Business, Innovation and Skills department and George Osborne than those under Vince Cable.’ Any easing of intergovernmental relations can only benefit business.

Can Javid deliver a Green Economy?

Before the election, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) had already set about valuing the UK’s Green Economy. For many, the Coalition’s efforts to manage our transition towards sustainable economics were largely bungled. The ONS update is due by the end of 2015. It could help catalyse more joined up Government thinking, proving sustainability’s worth.

“This new survey will provide much needed, robust evidence on the strength, size and dynamics of Britain’s low-carbon and renewable energy sectors,” said, Will McDowall, from University College London’s Energy Institute. “It will provide crucial insight into understanding how the UK economy is responding to the challenges of developing new, low-carbon and renewable energy industries.”

Challenges for Javid will include leveraging cash and incentives within an austerity-focused Parliament. He must grow tomorrow’s Green Economy, yet pacify Conservative insiders unconvinced of the urgency behind decarbonising business.

Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive at the UK Green Building Council, said: “Green jobs, skills and businesses are vital components of a strong and prosperous UK. Buildings themselves provide excellent opportunities to improve people’s lives and stimulate growth in the economy, as well as curbing our environmental impact.”

Hirigoyen thinks Conservative support for the Climate Change Act and appetite for a strong global deal in Paris are encouraging. “UK-GBC and its members hope to build on the ground-breaking minimum energy efficiency standards legislation, and raise ambitions around home energy efficiency and zero carbon standards for new buildings.”

Further reaction

Responding to Amber Rudd’s appointment as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate, John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, hopes Cameron remains committed to implementing the Climate Change Act.

“Ms Rudd was a key player in securing vital reforms to the EU Common Fisheries Policy and championing a better deal for the UK’s local, sustainable fishing sector. We look forward to her bringing the same drive and ambition to securing the clean and efficient energy future Britain needs.”

techUK represents half of all British tech sector jobs; work crucial to growing the disruptive industries of tomorrow.  Commenting on the election, Antony Walker, Deputy CEO of techUK, argues the future of the UK depends on a strong, tech-enabled economy. He feels tech companies will be encouraged by signs of political certainty provided by the vote.

“The Conservative party has demonstrated a solid track record on tech and the digital economy across the UK. The new government must look to build on those achievements to make the UK a world leader in the next wave of the digital revolution.”

Prior to the election, the Financial Times polled business leaders, many of whom criticised Labour for an “anti-business” position. This may be true, but for green business, fear remains over whether Conservative divisions on environment could be equally divisive.

Now, the low carbon movement must ramp up its lobbying call, before Europe, the referendum and day to day politics step into the limelight.

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