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UK ‘can’t afford not to’ go green in bid for growth, CBI chief to say

CBI director-general Rain Newton Smith
CBI director-general Rain Newton Smith

The UK’s future economic growth could be put at risk if politicians try to “separate the economy from net zero”, a top business lobby group boss is set to warn ahead of the general election.

Rain Newton-Smith, chief executive of the Confederation for British Industry (CBI), will say to the next government that they “can’t be pro-growth and deliver… without being pro-green.”

She will say: “It’s a dangerous error to try and separate it [the economy] from net zero. There is still too much in our political discourse that amounts to – ‘can we afford to go for net zero?’ But the real question is – can we afford not to?”

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“The cost of inaction the OBR has set out… the hit to our GDP will be five times higher if we don’t act, than if we act early.”

The CBI boss will deliver the keynote speech at the City & Financial Global’s second annual Climate Adaptation and Resilience Summit in London, today (Monday, July 1).

As the general election campaign enters its final few days, she is expected to highlight the “deafening silence from all the parties about the issues of climate change, biodiversity loss, net zero and our planet” in contrast to what she calls the “consensus case” from business.

Net zero is seen as a growth opportunity by firms and CBI members, Newton-Smith will say.

Analysis from CBI Economics previously found that the UK net zero sector grew by nine per cent in 2023, despite the UK falling into a technical recession that year.

A recent CBI Going for Green report found the next government could add up to £57bn to the economy thanks to green growth by 2030 with “huge emerging markets” for new tech.

The business group boss will urge whichever party forms the UK’s next government to “be loud and proud in making green growth part of a new investor pitch for brand Britain” and “make decisions and stick to them… let the world know we’re in this for the long-haul”.

Newton-Smith will also call for a new office for net zero to coordinate across Whitehall and “take a truly strategic approach… [to] embed net zero in our economic strategy”, and to create a net zero investment plan to “crowd in private spending”.

Other key measures she is expected to highlight include a “new green innovation credit to unlock private R&D or lowering corporation tax on green tech profits”; and backing rapid grid growth in the face of nimbyism, warning “without that, there’s no net zero, no green growth”.