The British chemicals sector is our largest exporting industry, contributing GBP9bn in trade revenue and supporting 600,000 jobs. All this is now threatened due to the misguided methods the Government is using to reduce the UK's carbon footprint. In Chain Reactions, David Merlin-Jones argues that the current set of 'green' policies, whereby levies and taxes are used to punish the greatest energy users like the chemical sector, will prove to be economic suicide. Existing policies are based on short-termism, expecting too large a carbon reduction in too short a time. While the EU's Emission Trading Scheme raises the cost of production all over Europe, the British Government is set on adding more charges, reducing our competitive edge. Combined with overbearing regulations and falling skill levels, this is a recipe for disaster. Not only will this force the emigration of the chemical industry, resulting in unemployment and a loss of national income, but in addition we will lose its products and innovations - these being the only hope for consistently reducing our carbon footprint in the long term. Drawing on interviews with experts in the chemical industry, Merlin- Jones provides an alternative view, arguing that the chemicals sector is the key to reducing UK carbon emissions and ensuring economic prosperity. Britain needs a policy that ensures an even footing for chemical firms competing internationally, by keeping the UK's energy costs attractive. Only this will allow chemical firms to provide the products vital to combatting climate change. David Merlin-Jones concludes that chemical firms must be seen in a new light, which recognises that they are not the heavy polluters of past decades and are part of the solution, rather than the problem. The UK must realise that within the chemical industry lie the foundations of the low-carbon economy. This requires nurturing, not annihilation.
About the Author
David Merlin-Jones is a graduate from Exeter College, University of Oxford where he studied history. He joined Civitas in 2010 as a Research Fellow, focusing on economic issues and, in particular, British manufacturing and energy. He has authored previous Civitas reports including Rock Solid? An investigation into the British cement industry (2010), The Industrial and Commercial Finance Corporation: Lessons from the past for the future (2010) and co-authored Economic Growth: could the Government do more? (2011). He has also contributed to the 2009 edition of the Civitas Review.