LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Friday a “vast expansion” of carbon-cutting technologies was crucial to economic recovery but drew criticism for not announcing new support.
The prime minister chaired a meeting of business leaders meant to rally ideas for what he called a new industrial strategy, to promote a green economy which he said would employ 1.3 million Britons by 2017, 400,000 more than now. “I don’t think we will have the strength of recovery we need unless as a central part of that there is a low-carbon recovery,” he said, referring to a needed economic boost.
Britain is in recession and unemployment at two million and Brown is under pressure to create jobs before an election which must be held by mid-2010. The Bank of England cut interest rates to a record low Thursday.
“For climate change, energy price stability and energy security we need to act,” he added, referring to longer term benefits of diversifying away from fossil fuels.
Environmental activists were disappointed Brown had not announced new measures Friday, for example to encourage clean energy investment that has been held up by a credit squeeze.
“We need fewer speeches and more ambitious action from this government,” said Greenpeace executive director John Sauven.
The Confederation of British Industry business lobby warned that U.S. President Barack Obama’s engagement with climate issues would test Britain’s competitiveness.
“The UK must show greater urgency if it is to grasp the opportunities,” said Richard Lambert, CBI director-general.
The world has committed an estimated $200 billion (140 billion pounds) to the green economy under new stimulus plans, led by the United States and European Union. That adds to targets such as Europe’s goal to curb greenhouse gases by a fifth by 2020.
Additional measures such as loan guarantees were needed to unblock project finance, say industry experts and advisers.
“(We will) look at this across a range of claims and demands ... to help bridge these funding gaps,” said Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, referring to new support.
A protester against the planned expansion of Heathrow airport threw green custard at Mandelson as he arrived at the meeting in central London. The government approved plans in January for the expansion of the airport.
Brown said he wanted a meeting in London on April 2 of the G20 leading developed and emerging economies, aimed at stabilising financial markets, to coordinate stimulus spending on low-carbon technologies into a global “green new deal.”
In the 1930s, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” helped to lift the United States out of the Great Depression.
Brown and U.S. President Barack Obama had discussed in Washington earlier this week the “urgent need” for agreement on a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol after 2012, the prime minister added.
“(We agreed) the critical importance of the timetable to Copenhagen,” he said of a U.N.-led meeting in Denmark this December meant to thrash out agreement on a new treaty.
-- Additional reporting by Stefano Ambrogi
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