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UK growth at risk if it is not sustainable, Government is warned

SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities, SDG 13: Climate action,
 Dec 2018

Credit: Zapp2Photo/istock

December 3, 2018 - The UK Government could place its long-term economic prosperity at risk if it does not place action on climate change and sustainability at the heart of its growth strategy, according to a new report published today (3 December 2018) by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, and the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

The special report for the LSE Growth Commission identifies 16 key recommendations for Government to ensure sustainable economic growth for the UK, including extending carbon pricing across the economy, creating a National Infrastructure Bank, ensuring education institutions prepare the workforce for jobs in the low-carbon economy, and developing a national ‘smart city’ strategy.

The report also recommends that the Government should combine its Industrial Strategy and Clean Growth Strategy in order to create coherent policies on innovation, infrastructure, skills and cities to drive sustainable economic growth.

It concludes that “the evidence suggests that a more sustainable and inclusive growth path will bring great opportunities, and that the alternative of investing in high-carbon, resource-intensive infrastructure, behaviours and institutions will be an economically and socially risky proposition, potentially to the detriment of the economy and UK citizens”.

The report states that “it is sensible for environmental sustainability to be at the heart of the UK’s growth strategy”, and points out that “the pursuit of sustainable growth and the low-carbon transition provides opportunities for investment that are likely to improve labour and resource productivity across the UK’s communities and regions”.

In the foreword to the report, the co-chairs of the LSE Growth Commission, Professors Tim Besley, Stephen Machin and Nicholas Stern, write: “The UK has a responsibility to set a strong example for the world: as a global leader on climate change in the past, and as a country at the forefront of developing innovative plans to improve productivity and sustainable growth for the future.”

They add: “The UK Government’s ‘Industrial Strategy’ and ‘Clean Growth Strategy’ amount to a promising start but future strategy needs greater coherence and ambition if economic growth is to be sustainable over the long term. It is not sensible to promote a narrowly defined ‘low-carbon’ sector that contributes around 1 per cent to UK GDP while the rest of the economy gets on with a business-as-usual high-carbon path. Technical advances and policy innovations are opening up opportunities for improvements to labour and resource productivity, and sustainable growth, everywhere across the economy. This is a far more attractive way to manage the growth and environmental challenges the UK is facing.”

The report highlights figures showing 55 per cent of the UK population now live in cities, and states: “Developing smart cities across the UK is crucial for improving the performance of the regions”. It adds: “There is no trade-off between sustainability and growth at the urban level: polluted, congested, unattractive cities create alienation and fail to attract labour and capital”.


Inquiry and contact information

Bob Ward

London School of Economics and Political Science (

+44 (0)20 7107 5027 or +44 (0)20 7107 5440