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Green and responsible conservatism

17th July 2015 Posted by

Green and Responsible Conservatism, a new report from Bright Blue, purports to show “how the centre-right of British politics could better embed sustainability and long-termism within the UK economy”. In truth, a preference for market mechanisms and incentives over prescriptive policy instruments is hardly the sole preserve of the right; there are not many recommendations here that would make a left-winger blanch.

As with the Conservative party’s manifesto for the 2015 general election, energy and climate change dominate the “green” discussion.  Resource use (beyond energy resources) barely gets a mention, and one has to read between the lines to infer what specific policy recommendations might mean for our sector.

 

For example, the report proposes that “Local government should be required to improve the stock of natural capital in their area”.  Furthermore, “Government should explicitly prioritise growth in the stock of certain asset classes that will enhance long-term economic potential and productivity, such as low carbon infrastructure, research and development, natural capital, and resource efficiency

In the context of the circular economy, “improving the stock of natural capital” and “[growing] natural capital” could be interpreted as conserving virgin raw materials, while reducing the net balance between raw material imports and secondary raw material exports.  As with the European Union as a whole, the UK is a net importer of raw materials, but a net exporter of secondary raw materials recovered from the waste stream.  Growing the stock of resource-efficient assets also chimes with the concept of the circular economy.

But these rather strained attempts to widen the report’s policy recommendations to include non-energy resource use emphasises the fact that the resources and waste management sector remains a blind spot in terms of the UK’s industrial strategy.  The sterling efforts of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and others in highlighting the benefits in jobs and economic growth our sector can provide continue to fall on deaf ears.

 

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