More support for the low-carbon economy is needed from the government, according to manufacturers’ organisation EEF.
According to the report the UK's position as the sixth largest producer and provider of low-carbon goods and services is faltering, with manufacturing output falling in 2010/2011, while other countries, including China, the US, India and South Korea, that have strategic policies for boosting their low-carbon industries, saw double-digit growth in the same period.
But the organisation said driving forward development of green products and technologies to cut emissions, which UK businesses could export to the rest of the world, could deliver an £880bn boost to the economy between now and 2050.
EEF's head of climate and environment policy Gareth Stace said: "The low-carbon economy represents a massive opportunity for manufacturers and a major prize for our economy. If we can build an early lead in key areas we have the chance to export our solutions to the rest of the world.”
The UK is also lagging behind in government spending on research relating to climate and energy, committing just over 1 per cent of its research and development budget to energy, compared with a developed country average of 4 per cent.
EEF is calling on the government to set out a clear vision by the end of this year for UK manufacturing in a low-carbon economy, in order to give businesses the certainty to invest in new products and technology.
Stace said: “We are currently failing to take advantage of this opportunity to be a world leader in low-carbon goods and services. We need government to set out its vision of manufacturing's place in the low-carbon economy, focus more on innovation and provide greater regulatory stability and predictability in breakthrough technologies that will deliver it."
The organisation said that companies are already investing in green growth, with six out of 10 developing new processes to improve their environmental performance and more than half of large companies developing products and processes to help them and their customers manage climate and environment issues.
But steps by government are needed to ensure the UK can gain a lead in developing technologies, to ensure industry has access to the right skills and can obtain the finance to invest in decarbonising technology, and to ensure competitively priced electricity.
A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesperson said: “We’re determined to seize the significant opportunities that the green agenda presents for the UK economy.
“That’s why we are working closely with industry on strategies in the low-carbon sector. These are looking at how government and industry can support skills, R&D and encourage investment.
“That’s why we’ve set up the UK Green Investment Bank to accelerate private sector investment. And, that’s why we’re investing in R&D programmes for the future.”