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

Posted on 3 Dec 2018 in

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”.

For more information about this media release or to obtain an embargoed copy of ‘Sustainable growth in the UK: Seizing opportunities from technological change and the transition to a low-carbon economy’, please contact Bob Ward on +44 (0) 7811 320346 or


  1. The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment ( was launched at the London School of Economics and Political Science in October 2008. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment (
  2. The ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy ( is hosted by the University of Leeds and the London School of Economics and Political Science. It is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council ( The Centre’s mission is to advance public and private action on climate change through rigorous, innovative research.
  3. Established at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1990, the Centre for Economic Performance ( is one of Europe’s leading economic research centres. Comprising some 90 faculty, research staff and doctoral students, the Centre studies the determinants of economic performance at the level of the company, the nation and the global economy by focusing on the major links between globalisation, technology, the educational system and the labour market and their impact on productivity, inequality, employment, stability and wellbeing. Since 2018 the Centre has been recognised as a global centre of excellence by its main funders, the UK Economic and Social Research Council, and granted official ESRC Research Institute status.
  4. The LSE Growth Commission ( was set up to provide authoritative and evidence-based policy recommendations that target sustainable and inclusive long-term growth in the UK.