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Small firms should embrace green economy

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Smaller firms have been urged to take advantage of the opportunities that the developing low-carbon economy has to offer.

The global market for low-emission goods and services is predicted to be worth £4 trillion by 2015, and the CBI has said that UK SMEs should act now to make the most of the new economic landscape.

The CBI has just staged a climate change summit and used the occasion to urge small businesses to keep pace with the emerging green economy.

Dr Neil Bentley, the CBI’s director for business environment, said: “SMEs will be the engine of the UK’s economic recovery and the low-carbon sector presents many exciting new opportunities for growth.

“The CBI’s Climate Change Summit rings together businesses, banks and politicians to plot the course for the UK to become a world-leader in low-carbon technology.”

At the summit, the CBI’s director general, Richard Lambert, warned that inaction on the part of the UK to take decisive steps on carbon emissions could harm the economy’s ability to attract investment.

In his speech to the conference, Mr Lambert argued that the pace of progress in the last three years had been disappointing, in part because of the impact of the global recession. But he stressed that businesses remained more committed than ever to the climate change agenda.

He continued: “It was only a few years ago that this was a niche topic in the board room. Now it is central – to our member companies, to the long-term health of the UK economy.

“Three years ago, we argued that companies were going to have to be green to grow – a line that puzzled some people at the time. But today, it has almost become a truism.”

Setting out what needs to be done to get back on track, Mr Lambert said: “The central theme of our report three years ago was that Government and business had to work together to raise their game, and to create the kind of environment that would encourage consumers to come along too. And that remains the message today.

“Government providing the incentives, setting the regulations, supporting the infrastructure for green growth. Businesses designing and marketing their products and services within a consistent policy framework.

“And consumers given the incentives and information to make the informed judgements that will lead to a more energy efficient low carbon future.”

Mr Lambert said a set of simple and transparent policies that encourage before they punish and that are not forever being refashioned were needed. He urged the government to accelerate energy market and planning reform, and to work with business to deliver some of its big new ideas, such as the Green Investment Bank and the Green Deal, in an effective fashion.

He added: “Companies don’t have to wait for political leadership when they set about designing new products, or launching new services for the low carbon world.

“But when it comes to major capital projects, they need the assurance that policies are going to be consistent and clear, and they need certainty about the regimes under which they are going to operate.”