UK Sees No Need For Subsidies in US, EU Green Technology Battle


The UK sees no need for immediate subsidies to counter US and EU proposals to boost green industries, two cabinet ministers said.

President Joe Biden’s administration has assured Britain it will “take the rough edges off” its $369 billion package of measures to promote cleantech, meaning the UK won’t “get squeezed in the middle” between the US and EU, Business Secretary Grant Shapps said on Friday in an interview. That gives the UK time to consider its response, he suggested.

“We can afford to take a broader look at all this and make up our own mind about the way we want to approach this,” Shapps said. “If we wanted to do the same we would need to raise the money and spend it — but we have a 10-year lead on all of this so I don’t think it’s the necessarily the route we need to dash down.”

Shapps’s remarks chime with those of Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt, who told Bloomberg TV on Friday that he doesn’t think subsidies are the best way to accelerate the global drive to eliminate carbon emissions. 

“If we’re going to have the transition to net zero, we should benefit from free and open trade between all the countries that share that ambition because that will means we’ll get there more quickly, more cost effectively than if we go it alone,” Hunt said. 

Shapps earlier this month said the US Inflation Reduction Act containing the green subsidies was “dangerous” because it risked triggering a race to protectionism.

Biden’s plan has angered allies in Europe and Asia who fear it will cut them out of the US market, particularly for automobiles. And with EU leaders pushing for huge spending to counter the US plan, the UK has privately urged the EU not to harm British companies.

While both ministers told Bloomberg the UK has some concerns, Shapps argued that if Britain were still in the EU, it would likely be a net contributer rather than net beneficiary of any subsidy package the bloc puts forward. 

He said he’s reassured that the UK won’t “get left out in the cold” because the US has made it clear that whatever exemptions are made for the EU will also include the UK.

“Rather than be concerned and frightened about all this — and yes there are some issues — but I see a lot of this as an advantage,” Shapps said. “Thank goodness America are finally waking up to something we’re at least twice as far ahead with, so we should welcome that.”

Hunt, for his part, said that outside the EU, the UK has the advantage of “nimbleness,” giving it “the opportunity to do things differently, quickly, with new regulatory structures.”

Nevertheless, the position of the two cabinet ministers also risks opening the UK government up to the accusation that it doesn’t have a plan to promote green industries, especially as the US pushes its new measures and the EU prepares its response. 

The Cleantech Arms Race has Begun. Can it Save the Planet?

Institute of Directors Chief Economist Kitty Ussher called Hunt’s wider plan for the economy — spelled out in a speech at Bloomberg before his interview — “empty,” and said businesses need to see “a plan to incentivize…

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