There’s a climate-shaped hole in the budget

Osborne’s failure to put action on climate change at the heart of the budget is bad economics


Amid swathes of bad news in today’s budget – the cruel cuts to tax credits, the lowering of the benefits cap and the handouts to the richest in the form of a raised inheritance tax threshold – there’s a cavernous, climate-shaped hole that should concern us all.

George Osborne isn’t just wedded to shrinking the state, he’s failing recklessly to ensure the Treasury plays a positive role in this country’s efforts to tackle climate change. In Today’s Budget, the chancellor trumpeted plans to cut taxes for fossil fuels, increase taxes for renewable energy and spend public money on building new roads.

This comes just weeks after the government announced plans to end support to onshore wind – the cheapest form of renewable energy. This flies in the face of the Conservatives’ supposed desire to decarbonise power at lowest cost, and ignores the views of two thirds of the public who support onshore wind.

Osborne’s failure to put action on climate change at the heart of the budget is also bad economics.

Only yesterday, a coalition of leading UK businesses called on George Osborne to prioritise green investment and climate action, warning that the UK green economy is ‘at a crossroads’ without clear policy direction. In this context, the chancellor’s claim to have put in place a long term framework for investment in renewable energy bears no resemblance to reality.

A further call to action from the Global Commission on the Economy and the Climate, a heavyweight panel of experts, found that by building green cities, mobilising clean energy investment and other measures, governments can secure up to 96 per cent of extra carbon cuts needed to avoid dangerous global warming while reaping economic benefits.

It’s astonishing that this year, when the UK should be playing a leadership role at the crucial global climate summit in Paris, Osborne is risking both the UK’s reputation and the chances of meeting our own emissions targets.

We heard the usual rhetoric about the cost of energy to consumers; yet again not matched by action. If the chancellor was truly worried about fuel poverty and the cold homes crisis – which results in 65 people on average dying each day in winter – he’d be making energy efficiency the number one infrastructure investment priority.

If the Treasury can decide to allocate all revenue from Vehicle Excise Duty to spending on roads, it should instead be ring-fencing the taxes everyone pays on energy bills to invest in making all homes super energy efficient, starting with households on low incomes. This would be a job-creating, revenue raising, carbon-saving, economic and environmental no brainer, yet is nowhere to be seen in today’s Budget.

Even more urgently, the chancellor should be reviewing the billions of pounds of indirect subsidies to the dirty fossil fuel industry, tax breaks for fracking, and the vast sums of public money allocated to polluting, environmentally destructive high carbon projects such as new roads and runways.

The chancellor announced plans to prevent taxpayers’ money benefitting renewable electricity generated overseas, yet remained silent on the shocking revelation earlier this year that the government spends three hundred times more backing fossil fuel projects abroad compared with clean energy, via the export credit agency.

Fossil fuel subsides are the scandalous public spending that should be cut – not support for clean, green, home-grown renewable energy.

The consequences of inadequate action on climate change are grim and will hit the poorest worst. But, as businesses and economists are increasingly explaining, ambitious action to tackle the climate crisis would utterly transform our economy, create decent jobs and lift people out of fuel poverty.

It’s a tragedy that this government looks set to let its obsession with spending cuts trump a commitment to investing in the long-term health of our economy and the stability of our environment.

Six years ago, the chancellor told the nation he understood this. In a speech to Imperial Colleage, he said “I want a Conservative Treasury to be in the lead of developing the low carbon economy and financing a green recovery. For I see in this green recovery not just the fight against climate change, but the fight for jobs, the fight for new industry, the fight for lower family energy bills and the fight for less wasteful government.”

Now, the need for the government to drag itself out of the dark ages and blaze a trail of low carbon leadership is more urgent than ever – for the sake of our economy as well as our climate.

Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion. Follow her on Twitter

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21 Responses to “There’s a climate-shaped hole in the budget”

  1. Faerieson

    Climate change may be just one of the many shortfalls with current funding. And those with their fingers on the purse strings are demonstrably not interested in the betterment of a wider society. Already we have the creeping corporatisation of universities, whereby research is threatened by the by the partial outlook of sponsors. Imagine, potential solutions are now ‘arrived at’ entirely with profits in mind. What could possibly go wrong?

    I know that there are increasing numbers of angry anti-public-sector posters who appear to believe that profit is king. But, counter to current Conservative ‘thinking,’ there are certain areas that are just far too important to be allowed to play second fiddle always to shareholder profits. The monetary whims of the wealthy and best public interests are often far from the same thing!

  2. Faerieson

    “by the by the,” should read, “by the,” obviously.

  3. Leo Worley

    I appreciate the point of the article, but those towers are only outputting steam 😛

  4. Chris

    The black smoke in the background isn’t – and it takes a lot of coal to make that much steam! I seem to recall that Drax ranked as one of the biggest point sources of CO2 in the world.

  5. Torybushhug

    As a life long tree hugger my greatest enviromental concern is the over population of England, unsustainable on so many levels, from ever intensive agriculture to feed us all to cat kill which in my area has wiped out reptile colonies fast. More people, more cats, more road kill, more chemical farming, more everyone. The greens no longer speak for me.
    Caroline and co want every last soul on the planet enjoying a western lifestyle so frankly I now care not about climate change, it’s the least of our worries.

  6. JeremyEHayes

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  7. wj

    Agreed, it’s all wanting to be everything to everyone.

    I care more about the destruction of our nature than I believe this carbon-caused climate change; it always amazes me that large crowds will gather to oppose the de-forestation in other parts of the world and completely ignore it in the fields right next to them.

  8. stevep

    As a fellow tree-hugger I would encourage you to read the Green Party manifesto carefully, there`s much to admire. Also read the 1989 book on green politics “It doesn`t have to be like this” by David Icke (Yes, the same David Icke, but don`t be put off), written when he was spokesperson for the Green Party. It is a brilliantly simple critique of our consumer society and how and why we need to change to a more sustainable model.

  9. Selohesra

    I agree with much of what you say but you are on dodgy grounds if you take on cats – I have two lovely cats. Stop it!

  10. dodgy dave

    iT’S ABOUT TIME SOMEONE PLUGGED ALL THOSE BLOODY VOLCANOES. They pour out more filth and poisons in a day than all of humanity put together.

  11. Selohesra

    Actually pumping out water vapour – you cannot see steam! That’s about all I remember from O’level physics

  12. John Marshall

    If you are worried about UK population now, wait until climate change really kicks in. There will be millions of environmental migrants looking for somewhere more temperate to live. Lack of money and other attention to the risks of climate change will increase our immigration “problem”. Ukip should be arguing for action in this area too!

  13. John Samuel

    Humans emit 100x more CO2 than volcanoes.

  14. JoeDM

    Warmist tosh.

  15. Mike Stallard

    And you STILL believe in Anthropogenic Climate Change? How very quaint!

  16. Patrick Nelson

    If Britain hadn’t told the Commonwealth to bog off and run with open arms to Europe the British population surplus would have continued to seep towards population hungry Australia and New Zealand etc and their cats would have spent the last four decades eating endangered marsupials instead of your beloved reptiles.

  17. Patrick Nelson

    Don’t worry the population is liable to plummet eventually due to peak oil and climate change and if we don’t have the sense to adjust before hand Mad Max beyond the Thunderdome here we come! erm I’m just going to withdraw my complaint about those wind turbine now.

  18. Patrick Nelson

    So are you telling me that the Greens are non-GM and reptilian free?

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  20. the truth of Science

    Oi! Stop playing with your parents computer, everyone can see you haven’t reached puberty yet.

  21. Ringstone

    Meanwhile in the real world: if there’s a hard winter in the next three or four years we’ll be lucky to keep the lights on, having prematurely retired fossil fuel stations in pursuit of climate targets, at which point our green pigeons will really come home to roost.
    From that well known right wing, climate change denying rag; the Guardian.

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