The UK faces up to two more years of economic pain and neither Labour nor the Tories are offering “convincing” arguments to ease the crisis, accor NEC chief executive Paul Thandi.

But the exhibition centre boss, who topped last year’s Birmingham Post’s Power 50, says cutting carbon emissions could play a key part in helping hard-pressed firms save costs – and ultimately jobs.

Mr Thandi, head of a group which supports 29,000 jobs and contributes £2 billion to the regional economy, said the NEC had already identified £600,000 worth of savings through carbon-friendly measures.

“The downturn is going to be here for at least this year, if not the next. I do not think that either party is more convincing than the other.

“We are still way behind our European competitors and we do not have an express train to get us out of this. As a UK economy we do not have much oil or gas, our manufacturing is in low-growth sectors and we need new industries to drive the economy.”

Mr Thandi said the UK could become “global leaders” in environmental initiatives which could save businesses in the West Midlands an estimated £272 million a year – and stressed the NEC Group was already aiming for a 60 per cent reduction in its carbon footprint by 2050.

“Since 2006 we have reduced our footprint by 16 per cent, that is nearly 2,000 flights from Birmingham to New York.

“Nine out of 10 customers that use the ICC say ‘have you got an environmental policy, what is it?’.

“We have a duty of care over the business that we run and a duty of care over our employees and, importantly, the environment.

“Everyone can switch off lights, everyone can switch off laptops – these are simple measures. We’ve taken the advice of the Carbon Trust and made significant carbon and energy savings.

“We have invested another £6.5 million into a heating and ventilation system at the NEC site. We are looking to investigate whether we can build a biomass plant at the NEC – the aim would be to generate our own power and sell it back to the Grid; we are looking to introduce a smart-meter facility.”

In 2008 alone, the Carbon Trust – an independent company set up in 2001 by the Government in response to the threat of climate change – supported half a million UK businesses, saving companies up to £227 million from their annual energy bills.