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Mandelson: politics of climate change must focus on opportun

Persuading people to change behaviour will only happen if there are economic incentives, says business secretary

The politics of climate change must be focused on the economic opportunities involved if it is to succeed in persuading people to embrace it, Lord Mandelson told a business conference on Friday.

At a time when scepticism about politicians is high, it is important to make people realise that politicians do have a "core of positive ideas" which included moving the country to a low-carbon economy.

And in a dig at inflexible environmental campaigners who see stalled economic growth as the only way to prevent climate change, Mr Mandelson said: " Mainstream climate change politics obviously can't be totally anti-politics, anti-business and anti-growth. We can't just throw green slime at the problem."

Mr Mandelson had green custard thrown over him by environmental campaigner Leila Deen after she accused him of being in bed with industry over the decision to approve a third runway at Heathrow.

The government sees real opportunities in the move to a low-carbon economy, according to Mr Mandelson.

"In energy savings or trade, the global market for low carbon goods and services is already worth around £3tn a year, and will probably grow by half that again by 2015," he said.

Almost 900,000 people already work in the sector or its supply chain in the UK, in green manufacturing and in green services such as consultancy or low-carbon venture capital. The sector is projected by the government to maintain positive growth rates through the economic crisis.

The government is due to publish its full Low Carbon Industrial Strategy later this summer outlining the steps it will take to move the UK towards a low-carbon economy.

And Mr Mandelson said the government's skills policy will be adapted in the summer to reflect the growing need for workers with low carbon skills.

"We are also looking at ideas for a new public-private innovation fund that would be a source of growth capital for high-tech SMEs, many of which would inevitably be in the low carbon sector," he said.

Where appropriate, the government would intervening in the market to generate demand with procurement programmes, Mr Mandelson added.

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