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CBI calls for UK lo-carb tech spend 'equal to weapons'

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The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called for the British government to give development of low-carbon technology the same emphasis as it does that of weaponry.

At present, around £250m of government funding goes into low-carbon tech annually, while the Ministry of Defence spends on the order of £2.5bn on the development of military equipment.

"Our ambition should be to increase expenditure on low-carbon technologies to around 30 per cent of the Government's total R&D budget, roughly equivalent to £2.6bn of purchasing power," said Dr Neil Bentley of the CBI.

"That would bring it in line with the proportion currently being spent on defence."

The CBI makes its recommendations in a report to be published today, in which it sees carbon-busting technology as a major emerging business sector in the world economy. Naturally the biz body believes that Blighty should be in there, scooping work and making money.

"The UK has an opportunity to enter and lead in new markets estimated at $1 trillion," said Dr Bentley.

"However there is currently a general lack of ambition and vision ... The UK needs to act now if it is to be a low-carbon leader. If not, we are in danger of being overtaken by other countries in low-carbon technology markets."

The CBI call to action is being widely reported as a call for "green" technology, but many greens would be unhappy with some of the ideas on offer. The industry group is keen to see "clean coal" and nuclear power developed, as well as the renewables beloved of the orthodox green movement.

It's certainly reasonable to suggest that the government would do well to fund the many technologies which could provide energy for the UK and its friends/customers in the post-fossil era. Others than the CBI might question the current policy of importing much of our energy kit and pouring government cash into domestic weapons programmes which on past form will never manage export sales justifying their cost.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change, in charge of meeting Blighty's ambitious carbon-reduction targets, issued a statement:

"We recognise the massive contribution low carbon innovation can make in helping us meet our climate change and energy security goals, as well as in creating jobs and business opportunities. That's why we're ploughing hundreds of millions of pounds into supporting energy R&D, and why the new Environmental Transformation Fund is up and running providing business with some £400m of funding to demonstrate innovative and energy efficient technologies." ®

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