Modern Industrial Strategy: Will the Environment Get Left Behind?

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The UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published a Green Paper on 23 January 2017, setting out the building blocks for the UK’s modern industrial strategy. Described by Theresa May as a “critical part” of the plan for post-Brexit Britain, the implementation of this strategy will have important policy ramifications, in particular, for the environment.

Overview of the Green Paper

Key points to note from the Green Paper include:

  • a consultation is launched which invites a review of the costs of achieving the UK’s decarbonisation goals and how to best support business energy efficiency (the consultation will close on 17 April 2017);
  • a review of the case for a new research institution on battery technology, energy storage and grid technology, will be undertaken, and findings will be released in early 2017 and an emissions reductions plan is expected in February 2017;
  • the government’s new approach to industrial strategy based on ten pillars will focus on ensuring that the UK economy benefits from the transition to a low-carbon economy by delivering affordable energy and clean growth; and
  • there will be a focus on improving the UK’s energy, transport, water and flood defence infrastructure.

Implications for the environment

The strategy is intended to highlight a new approach by the UK government to shift policy focus from short-term goals to focus on decisions that will deliver long-term sustainable success. While the clear objective of the modern industrial strategy is to improve economic growth and in doing so maximise business efficiency through cost reduction, this does not necessarily mean that environmental concerns will be sidelined and the transition to a low carbon economy is under threat.

To the contrary, the UK government has reiterated its commitment to meeting its legally binding targets under the Climate Change Act 2008 but it should be done so, in the most cost-effective manner.

The public consultation therefore provides an opportunity for interested parties to safeguard the transition to a low carbon economy in the most efficient manner and more importantly, to ensure wider environmental concerns do not get left behind.

This post was prepared with the assistance of Ashleigh Humphries in the London office of Latham & Watkins.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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