The Chancellor said he would “put the next generation first” in Budget 2016, yet failed to mention climate change or the Paris Agreement to tackle global warming. There was nothing to reboot investment in community-based renewable energy projects, badly hit by his own Treasury-led cuts to feed-in tariffs and now being challenged in the courts by community energy projects. The tariffs were essential to projects like the successful Banister House solar project in Hackney.
So, igorning this: The annual growth rate carbon dioxide in the atmosphere measured at the Mauna Loa climate observatory in Hawaii jumped by 3.05 parts per million in 2015, the largest year-to-year increase in 56 years of research…
…Osborne promised yet more support for fossil fuels:
- A further tax cut for the oil and gas industry.
- Extending the fuel duty freeze even as fuel prices have fallen further.
- Promising a £1 billion “Shale Wealth Fund” to be “deployed in local communities and the North as a whole.”
- Yet more investment in roadbuilding as rural bus services face Beeching-style funding cuts.
There was some better news for the green economy in a possible new round of support for offshore wind projects. Yet the Green Alliance estimates that the industry will build less than a gigawatt of offshore wind yearly in the early 2020s. Meanwhile, the additional flood defence funding, while welcome, is paid for not out of taxation but indirectly through a rise in insurance premiums.
A genuine “budget for the next generation” would take the really brave step of promising investments for economic diversification in cities and regions still highly dependent on fossil fuels – Aberdeen, in the case of offshore oil and gas, or, say, Yorkshire with thousands of jobs with uncertain futures in coal and gas power stations, and former coal mines. At least then his support for the oil industry would make more sense as transitional aid.
The Chancellor would be spoilt for choice in economic diversification projects – manufacturing strategies for wind turbines, solar power technology, home insultation schemes, commuity energy, low emission vehicles, energy storage systems, and reinstating the £1 billion funding for carbon capture and storage projects in Peterhead (Scotland) and at White Rose (Yorkshire), which Osborne scrapped last November.
Not everyone in Hackney Energy would agree with carbon capture on that list. But clearly, Osborne reverted to type in a budget that singularly failed to rise to the challenge set by the Paris Agreement. As Business Green put it, ‘The Chancellor’s seemingly willful inability to recognise how the economy can be transformed for the better to deliver a truly sustainable business model remains as intact as ever.”
Caroline Lucas MP commented: “This Budget locks us into fossil fuel dependency and completely contradicts the Prime Minister’s call to action at the Paris climate talks. His plans to cut tax for North Sea oil and gas – rather than investing in a just transition away from fossil fuels – are myopic and dangerous.”
“By ploughing millions into road build programmes at a time when many local bus services are threatened and air pollution represents a public health crisis, he’s failed to do what’s desperately needed: hardwire the urgent need to tackle climate change and pollution into infrastructure spending.”
Meanwhile, the Aldersgate Group, a green industry lobby group, was pleased that the government shelved plans to scrap the mandatory reporting by larger companies of their CO2 emissions. Most of the progressive businesses it represents opposed the Treasury’s preference for deregulation. The move will be useful for trade unions in their discussions with employers over corporate investment priorities and provide a useful check against corporate greenwash.
And finally, RepowerBalcombe has an answer for a Chancellor who would wish to corece communities to accept shale gas drilling. They have launched a new share offer to install solar arrays at two schools in the Sussex village, as the community energy group recovers from the cancellation of its planned solar farm – an early victim of Treasury cuts to community energy feed in tariffs. Go Balcombe!