COP26: New report examines the UK’s £87bn powerhouse environment sector

The UK’s output of environmental goods and services (EGS) totalled £87 billion in 2018 according to data presented in a new report launched today.

The report focuses on the scope and importance of environmental services, as well as the key barriers to their international trade. Environmental services include activities such as engineering, design and financial consulting, which are critical in facilitating the trade of environmental goods such as wind turbines and water filters.

At around 4% of total GDP, the report finds the UK is Europe’s third largest producer of EGS behind Germany and France and third largest exporter behind Germany and Austria.

However, these figures may be underestimating the value of the UK’s environmental services sector, as they do not reflect, for example, the rise of sustainable finance, where the UK’s contribution is likely to be much higher. Indeed, the report cautions that definitions and statistics on environmental services may not fully reflect their true scale and importance.

Conducted by KPMG, and commissioned by the City of London Corporation, the report, entitled ‘International Trade in Environmental Services: Barriers to trade and recent approaches to liberalisation’, comes as the UK prepares to host the crucial COP26 conference in November.

The report identifies several barriers to trade including:

  • visa issues;
  • tax rules and subsidies;
  • recognition of professional qualifications;
  • legal rights of establishment; and
  • requirements to have a local presence to supply cross-border services.

The report suggests that international cooperation on relevant regulations and standards across jurisdictions could be important in reducing the barriers in trade in environmental services.

Policy Chair at the City Corporation, Catherine McGuinness, said:

“As we approach COP26, finding ways to reduce the barriers to trade in environmental services will be crucial in supporting the green agenda.

“Services provide the glue which keeps the international trading system functioning. Without appropriate services – from the lawyer who advises on the contracts, to the ship which transports the goods, and the bank which provides the financing – international trade would not be possible.

“We at the City of London Corporation are playing our part in actively seeking to reduce these barriers by engaging in discussions with jurisdictions across the world on harmonizing relevant regulations and standards.

“But if the world is serious about tackling climate change than these discussions must take place at a multilateral level. With the UK being a world leader in environmental services, COP26 represents our best chance advance progress on this issue and set us along the path towards net-zero.”

Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk