Friday, 24 April 2009

The Budget – A Wasted Opportunity to Green the Economy

The chancellor Alistair Darling, announced in his Budget on Wednesday, something like £1.4bn designed to ‘green’ the UK economy. As is always the case with this government, it is not clear whether all of this money is new money, or just a recycling of commitments already announced, in an attempt to grab a headline or two.

The chancellor’s announcement of a target to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions by 34% by 2020, though not nearly enough, is to be welcomed, but the nuts and bolts of planned spending on environmental matters does not fill one with confidence that this is anything other than an aspiration.

The £2000 offered to motorists to trade in their cars that are over ten years old is a case point. It is not clear whether this is in addition to the discount already on offer from car showrooms for the trade in of used vehicles, indeed it seems it is not. So, it is unlikely to tempt many to buy a new car at this time, whilst where it does succeed, we will see emissions rise by building new cars and scrapping old ones. A lose/lose situation it would appear.

The money promised for green initiatives, at £1.4bn even if it all appears is a drop in the ocean when set against a £175bn debt accrued by the UK government propping up the banks, and really is a huge missed opportunity to generate up to a million ‘green collar’ jobs at the same time as making us more energy efficient and really boosting the renewable energy sector in this country. Most other comparable economies are being much bolder than this, and so once again the UK is lagging well behind the leading nations.

The day after the budget, the government announced plans for the building of four new coal burning power stations, claiming that they will be equipped with carbon capture and storage facilities. These facilities are as yet untried at any large scale plant anywhere in the world, so it seems a bit risky to throw money at this kind of ‘green’ industry. What if it doesn’t work, will these power stations be closed? I doubt it. I’ve not seen estimates of the costs of these four new plants, but I would bet it will be a damn sight more than the pitiful £500m announced in the Budget to help the wind power industry.

As usual, this government is trying to spin the energy/environment debate, like so many other issues over the last twelve years. This time though, with an impending climate crisis on our hands, it amounts to criminal negligence.

No comments: