Conference helps to set ‘green’ agenda

BUSINESS leaders from across East Anglia have taken the opportunity to have their say on how the region’s economy can be made “greener”.

BUSINESS leaders from across East Anglia were yesterday invited to have their say on how the region’s economy can be made “greener”.

The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) staged an interactive conference to highlight the opportunities represented by the “green economy” and to seek input from businesses on how barriers to improvement and investment can be overcome.

New Anglia, which covers Suffolk and Norfolk, was last year chosen by the Government as its “Green Economy Pathfinder” to development a strategy capable of leading the way for other LEPs around the country.

The conference, held at Dunston Hall, near Norwich, was supported by the Environment Agency and the Suffolk and Norfolk chambers of commerce, and chaired by Mark Pendlington, group director at Anglian Water and chairman of the New Anglia Green Economy Pathfinder board.

Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams and chairman of the New Anglia LEP, said the past two decades had seen a great deal of talk over climate change and carbon reduction but with little progress being achieved.

The Green Economy Pathfinder project aimed to be a ground-breaking initiative setting out changes capable of quick implementation.

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Adnams as a company had found its low carbon strategies “hugely beneficial” in business terms, he said, and he believed the same could be achieve for the regional economy as a whole.

Keynote speakers included Peter Unwin, director general at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), Paul Aldous, MP for Waveney, and Harvey Bradshaw, head of regulated industry at the Environment Agency.

Guests at the conference were also able to take part in a serious of round-table discussions, in order to provide their own input to a “manifesto” document which will set out proposals for the region.

Mr Unwin said that, under the coalition government, supporting growth was a priority for all departments. Defra recognised that natural resources were under increasing pressure and that this could stifle future growth if not addressed.

The New Anglia region had huge potential in terms of farmland, landscape and tourism, but also faced major challenges such as pressure on water resources, food production and housing.

Defra had been highly impressed by the New Anglia LEP’s Green Economy Pathfinder bid, and hoped the results would not only assist the region in its future development but would be an example of best practice for other parts of the country to follow.

Mr Bradshaw assured businesses that the Environment Agency was seeking to be a “Yes, if” organisation, which enabled businesses to overcome barriers.

The agency was adopting a more sectoral approach in order to improve its own expertise, basing its fees and charges more on risk, with an incentive for businesses to perform well, and seeking to reward good performance.

Guidance for businesses was also being streamlined in order to make it more accessible.

Mr Aldous said the Government needed to set an agenda which encouraged the private sector to make the investment necessary to drive the transition to a green economy.