More than two centuries after our role at the leading edge of the Industrial Revolution, the UK needs a new economic and social transformation.
One that sees global carbon emissions reduce dramatically. One that is essential for protecting our planet’s health and improving quality of life for future generations.
The government strongly believes that the UK can and should take a global lead in making the transition to a low carbon economy.
Read more: The business of tackling climate change
All developed economies need to make this transition – and fast.
To the naysayers, this isn’t about undoing the gains of our historic productivity, somehow rolling back time and pretending that the internal combustion engine had never been invented.
Instead, we need to be more ambitious and look forward: to develop new technologies, new markets, and to create novel ways of living, working, and producing.
This is where international private investment is essential. The political will is important, but so is encouraging innovation and creativity among all businesses.
In this vein, earlier this week the UK brought together industry experts and governments for an international conference on the low-emissions vehicles market.
The transport sector accounts for a fifth of global carbon dioxide emissions, and has a major impact on air quality in towns and cities. That is why the UK has committed to an emissions-free future for transport.
In Birmingham on Tuesday, more than a dozen countries and regions joined us in making that very same pledge. It will see governments invest in smart infrastructure networks and support research and development into green vehicles.
The UK’s target is for all new cars and vans to be zero-emission by 2050 – ambitious, but achievable.
Meanwhile, at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco this week, businesses, researchers and entrepreneurs have lined up to showcase their latest innovations.
We’ve seen people recommitting to efforts to tackle climate change and challenging us all to step up and take further, bolder action.
Attending the summit on behalf of the UK government, I am delighted to see that British companies are so well represented. They are sharing their acknowledged skills and experiences with partners from across the world.
All this is a consequence of the UK’s uniquely powerful offer.
The UK already employs almost 400,000 people in low carbon companies and their directly related supply chains. Worldwide transformative changes in sectors like agriculture, construction and transport are well underway.
Professional services industries support these sectors, including the City of London’s renowned financial, legal, and insurance services, as do world-leading research institutions.
London is the home of many green finance initiatives, designed to mobilise investment for sustainable projects. The government’s Green Investment Bank has backed 100 green infrastructure projects, and was successfully transferred to private ownership in 2017. The London Stock Exchange has to date raised over $20bn in green bonds.
Once again, we are seeing that the City of London is more agile than its competitors in identifying growing market demand and reinventing itself. Today, London is an obvious destination for people with green capital and green ideas.
The government is working with industry and finance to support these initiatives, within the framework of our industrial strategy. We are investing £2.5bn to support low carbon innovation between 2015 and 2021.
Just this week, the Prime Minister announced £106m for research and development into low-emissions vehicles technology. Together with the £500m that industry partners are investing, another 1,000 green jobs will be created.
And our commitment to fighting climate change reaches well beyond our own shores.
The UK is one of the world’s largest providers of financial and technical support to help countries adapt to the impacts of climate change and to reduce their emissions. The risks that climate change poses, including to security and public health, makes it central to our diplomatic efforts to create a safer, more prosperous future for everyone.
Here in the UK, the low carbon sector is growing, worth over £46bn across more than 90,000 businesses. While British companies face healthy competition from international partners, we have a real edge, and we should be proud of that.
But major technological or social shifts don’t come about because of government intervention alone: private investment and innovation will always be more nimble, far-reaching and inventive. This transformation will be no different.
Now, British businesses must continue to seize the economic opportunities on offer in this exciting, fast-moving, and exceedingly necessary new sector.