Can we afford to be green?
A survey earlier this year found that 60% of Guernsey residents are strongly or very strongly concerned about the environment, and that 85% think that government action is important in reducing the effects of climate change. But can we afford to do anything about it in the current economic context?
The answer is a resounding yes: investing in our environment is one of the most cost-effective ways to 'build back better', stimulating the economy and creating a stronger, more resilient and more sustainable post-pandemic future.
Here's one example. A significant chunk of the island's carbon footprint derives from space heating - in other words, emissions from the energy used to heat our houses. In homes that aren't well insulated, lots of energy is wasted, and the bill payer essentially ends up forking out to heat the sky above their roof. The cruel irony is that often the people who live in the least energy-efficient homes are the people who can least afford the higher cost of living.
By supporting schemes that make homes more energy efficient - for example, grants, subsidies or finance deals for retro-fitting insulation - the States could stimulate the local economy, reduce the island's carbon footprint and reduce the cost of living for Guernsey people. It's a win-win-win scenario.
This is an example of the green economy in action. Unlike the brown economy, where economic growth is dependent on environmentally destructive activities such as burning fossil fuels, the economic growth stimulated by the green economy is friendly to the earth's ecosystems, largely because it centres on the more efficient and sustainable use of resources. The blue economy is based on the same core principles, just with the aquatic environment at its heart.
The green and blue economies globally are big business, with the potential to add around $26trn over the next 15 years, and they represent a huge opportunity for Guernsey in particular. In a nutshell, the transition from the brown to the green and blue economies requires capital to be mobilised, and that, of course is our speciality as a finance centre...
I saw green and sustainable finance as a strategic opportunity for Guernsey back in 2016, and I'm glad we've now embraced it as a policy. It will continue to strengthen our finance sector, and therefore our economy - but it will also help tackle climate change and rehabilitate the ecosystems that support us.
For Guernsey, the question is not whether we can afford to be green, but whether we can afford not to be.