Capitalising on new global low carbon markets to boost UK export growth

How the low carbon sector is uniquely poised to unlock growth and create jobs by driving exports, particularly in fast-growing emerging markets in Mexico, the UAE, South Africa, and Turkey.


Publication date: May 2014

This report, researched and written by the Carbon Trust and commissioned by Shell Springboard, reveals that the low carbon sector is uniquely poised to unlock growth and create jobs by driving exports, particularly in fast-growing emerging markets. 

It forecasts that global low carbon exports will cumulatively be worth more than £1 trillion up to 2020 – and that in the same timeframe, the UK has a credible opportunity to triple its exports from £12 billion to around £30 billion and double its share of the global low carbon export market from around 5% to around 10% (similar to the UK’s share of the global pharmaceuticals industry).

This report looks at the growth of more than 180 low-carbon small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and evidence from more than 30 interviews with government and industry experts. It shows that SMEs are spearheading the UK government’s efforts to realise the nation’s low-carbon export potential by targeting new high-growth markets: low-carbon SMEs are more than twice as likely to export (45%) than SMEs in other sectors and 67% of them are already selling to emerging economies.

To help fulfil this future growth potential, the study identifies a £15 billion annual opportunity in four promising markets, the MUSTs – Mexico, the UAE, South Africa, and Turkey. These markets share favourable business environments including regulatory systems and a strong demand for low-carbon goods and services.

Yet, UK SMEs in the low-carbon sector continue to face tougher barriers than peers in other sectors**. The report revealed that nearly one in four cite raising capital as the primary barrier to exporting, while early stage funding for the sector has contracted by almost 50% since 2012. Nearly half of exporting SMEs had not partnered with a large organisation, missing out on potential sources to explore funding or business development opportunities.

The report advocates coordinated action in three areas to give UK SMEs the best possible chance of capitalising on the low-carbon export opportunity:

  • UK Government to redirect some existing financial support to business to bolster risk capital for low carbon SMEs
  • UK Trade & Investment, UK Export Finance, and the Foreign Commonwealth Office to provide a more integrated service for low-carbon SMEs with support packages to help unlock growth in emerging markets  
  • SMEs to make full use of existing support structures to help them succeed in overseas markets

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