The Tories are withdrawing subsidies for green power projects until 2025, but offering tax breaks for North Sea oil and gas developers.
There will be no subsidies available for wind farms, solar plants, tidal lagoons or any other green power projects until 2025 at the earliest, the Chancellor said yesterday — sparking fears the UK could fail to meet its 2030 emissions target.
Greenpeace labelled the 2017 budget “one of the least green ever”, after it was announced the Tories will also offer tax breaks to North Sea oil and gas developers, reinvigorating the fields and potentially putting climate goals in jeopardy.
The Green Party said Philip Hammond had “ducked the opportunity to take bold action on climate change”.
Despite small concessions to saving the environment — a new tax on plastic and investment in infrastructure for electric cars — Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said the Government had failed to get to grips with the climate crisis.
“This should have been the Blue Planet budget, but instead the action we’re seeing on environmental protection is little more than a drop in the ocean…
“Indeed continued tax breaks for oil & gas and the lack of serious new [investment] for solar risk locking us into a fossil fuelled future at the exact moment when we need to be leaving dirty energy sources in the ground.”
Lucas said a new plastic tax “simply isn’t enough” in the context of warming oceans and rising sea levels.
A “tiny increase” in Vehicle Excise Duty is also too little she said — in fact it suggests “the Government simply doesn’t understand the threat posed by filthy air.”
“The Government’s obsession with electric cars isn’t a panacea either – especially if they continue to be charged up with electricity from fossil fuelled power plants.
“Once again the Government has swerved at the chance to lower the cost of public transport for the majority – and ploughed ahead with its obsessive support for private cars.”
John Sauven, chief executive of Greenpeace, agreed. He said the budget was a “death knell” for new renewable energy projects, and overlooked the huge economic opportunities green power could bring.
“[Hammond’s] Budget focused on propping up dirty, incumbent industries of the past, from North Sea oil and gas, to polluting diesel cars.
“The Chancellor’s increase to Vehicle Excise Duty, while making the right noises, was far too weak to shift the market away from polluting diesel vehicles and reduce toxic air pollution that is harming our nation’s health.”
The campaign group said offering tax breaks to new investors in North Sea oil and gas was a mistake.
Under Hammond’s plans current owners of oil and gas fields will be able to transfer some of their corporation tax history, including tax breaks, to new owners, making the assets more attractive to investors who want to buy the fields and keep them running, but are worried about losing money when they are decommissioned in 2025.
Hannah Martin, energy campaigner at Greenpeace, said:
“Old North Sea oil and gas rigs have passed their sell by date and need to be decommissioned.
Government tax breaks for decommissioning might sound like a solution, but in reality a huge amount of taxpayers’ money is at stake to extend the life of these rigs, possibly for only a few years.”
It would be far more economical, she said, to make small tax changes for clean renewable power like solar, which would open up private investment.
Analysts recently said that coal power could boom in the early 2020s, enjoying ‘a last hurrah’ before the 2025 government deadline for the closure of all coal fired-stations, unless the government addressed the issue. Instead of acting to prevent this, it looks like they have done the opposite— with the environment set to pay the price.
There is a lot to dislike in Hammond’s budget, but the Tories’ refusal to address climate change has got to be one of its biggest failings.
Charlotte England is a freelance journalist and writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.