The economic potential offered by the Cleantech sector, not least in the jobs opportunity, is creating a number of national suitors, one of which is Scotland.
The Scottish Government published its Low Carbon Economy Strategy on 15 November, setting out the major opportunities for Scotland in the development of low carbon goods and services. The Strategy also sets out strategic opportunities and immediate actions for central and local government to support business in the transition towards a low carbon economy.
Scotland's low carbon market was worth around £8.5 billion in 2007-08 (within a GDP of around £100 billion), and is forecast to rise to around £12 billion by 2015-16. It is estimated around 60,000 new green jobs could be created in Scotland by 2020.
Launching the Strategy, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth John Swinney said that that moving to a low carbon economy was "Scotland's biggest opportunity this century" to create new jobs and grow the economy while tackling climate change.
Actions in the Strategy include:
· Co-ordinated support for businesses and academia in the Environmental and Clean Technologies sector, to maximise opportunities in a market potentially worth £12 billion to Scotland's economy
· Channelling innovation support to low carbon technologies where there is greatest chance of commercial success - the Scottish Government will reprioritise £15 million of innovation funding from the Lowlands and Uplands European Structural Funds Programme, which, along with match-funding from the private sector and other public sector funders, could create £60 million of support for low carbon activity
· Supporting the planning, design and construction of new infrastructure and the retrofit of existing facilities to support low carbon activity, such as renewable energy and electric vehicle infrastructure
· Supporting skills development through the Low Carbon Skills Fund and working with partners and employers to predict and respond to future skills demands
· Holding an annual Scottish Low Carbon Investment Conference, with next year's focus being investment for resource and energy efficiency
The Strategy makes clear that there are low carbon business opportunities not just in energy but across the economy, including: green tourism, green financial products, sustainable transport, building technologies, sustainable health, local sourcing of food and drink, and sustainable business practices.
With in mind the future economic opportunities to be created by what is essentially the birth of a new industry driven by a need to get to grips with climate change, it's no surprise that every country is upping the ante and wanting its slice of the Cleantech action. The UK Government believes the value of the global low-carbon goods and environmental services market will reach £4 trillion by the end of this Parliament. It is growing at 4% per year, faster than world GDP. It believes its share of that market is £112 billion. In the UK, it suggests, nearly a million people will be employed in the low-carbon sector by the end of the decade.
Getting there, however, is likely to take some time, and the reality is that there is unlikely to be a Fast Track route to Cleantech-created prosperity. That's not to say it won't happen - but it'll probably take longer than many governments would wish - or hope.