The budget was a green disappointment

November 29, 2020 11:50 AM
Originally published by Babergh South Suffolk Liberal Democrats

mt6z (Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash)We gave a cautious welcome to the Governments proposals for becoming carbon neutral. Our doubts concerned not the objectives set but the lack of any obvious plans and more importantly the belief this dramatic shift in the way we operate could be achieved at next to no additional cost, which defied credibility see here

The Chancellor did announce a new infrastructure bank, to be based in the north of England, and an emissions-trading scheme covering large portions of industry as evidence that the government is aligning its aim of rescuing the UK economy from the Covid-19 slump with its goal of cutting emissions to net zero by 2050. The bank replaces a similar one sold off by the Conservatives a few years ago

Of the £100bn to be invested in the UK's infrastructure, only a fraction seems destined to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while large portions of the spending are in danger of locking in high emissions far into the future. Road-building schemes will account for £27bn, and while housebuilding is a key aim there are few safeguards to ensure new houses will be zero-carbon. There is also little to guarantee that the £4bn "levelling-up fund" will avoid propping up the high-carbon economy.
Pedro Guertler, clean economy programme leader at the E3G thinktank, said: "The £1.1bn for green buildings is only 1% of the total [infrastructure] budget. This will not be enough to get on track to net zero." He called for further multi-year funding for green buildings to give the supply chain confidence to invest.

Shaun Spiers, executive director of Green Alliance, contrasted Sunak's announcements with last week's pledges. "The chancellor's statement was a chance to back [the 10-point plan] with serious money, but he muffed it. The chancellor gave no sense that he understands the scale of the climate and nature emergencies, or the potential of the green economy for immediate job creation across the country."

Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace, contrasted the UK's attempts at a green recovery with those of EU rivals. "The chancellor appears not have pledged a single extra penny towards a green economic recovery today" she said. "This would be a failure for jobs, the economy and the future of our planet. France and Germany get it - they're throwing a combined £63bn towards carbon-cutting stimulus measures."

Mike Childs, head of policy at Friends of the Earth, added: "With billions of pounds earmarked for a climate-wrecking road-building programme, and inadequate funding for home insulation, eco-heating, buses and cycling, this strategy falls woefully short of what's needed to meet the UK's legally-binding targets for building a green future."

There was concern at the lack of funding for infrastructure projects that restore the UK's natural environment, despite assurances last week by the prime minister that it was a key aim. Hilary McGrady, director-general of the National Trust, said: "This year has shown how important nature and green space are to people. While we welcome confirmation that climate change and the environment remain an important priority for the government, we've not seen the long-term funding commitment to deliver the bold changes we need."

Climate campaigners were also dismayed by the slashing of the international aid budget. Pledges by rich nations to provide at least £100bn a year to the developing world from this year, to help poor countries cut their emissions and cope with the impacts of climate breakdown, have been central to gaining support from the developing world for the Paris climate agreement.

For the UK to renege on its aid spending would send a damaging signal to the developing world, just as the UK prepares to host the next vital climate summit, campaigners warned. "The decision to cut the aid budget will fundamentally undermine the UK's climate leadership. It will hinder poorer countries' ability to tackle and adapt to the climate emergency, and sour the UK's diplomatic relationships in the run-up to the crucial Glasgow climate conference next year," Newsom said.

We often hear that all political parties are the same. On green issues the most definitely isn't the case. We Liberal Democrats have called for £150 billion over 3 years to be invested in

  • A green jobs guarantee, giving people training in new, environmental industries such as renewable energy, insulating homes and rewilding projects, paid at least the national living wage.
  • At least 80% of energy to be from renewable sources by 2030.
  • Properly insulating homes was vital for meeting existing green targets, Davey said, and could rapidly create jobs, with many local authority projects renovating social housing ready to go ahead. This would create jobs in supply chains, and help with those most affected by fuel poverty, he said: "So there's a big social win there too."
  • For rewilding programmes, people could work on areas such as tree-planting and peat bog restoration
  • A requirement for at least half of all Bank of England financing to go into green investment programmes,
  • and A new system of government "climate bonds" to raise extra capital. People would also receive tax incentives on savings and pensions for investing in green areas.

"If unemployment is going up anywhere near what people are saying, this plan is going to be absolutely essential," Ed Davey has said. "There's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to solve the massive crisis we're in."