Environmentalists not impressed with Osborne's gestures

By staff writers
22 Jun 2010

Environmental analysts are less than impressed with the green credentials of the government's emergency budget statement in the House of Commons today.

Friends of the Earth economy spokesperson, Simon Bullock, said: "We need to build a green economy to guarantee a safe and prosperous UK - but the chancellor has failed to take the bold decisions we so urgently need."

He continued: "Increasing VAT is deeply regressive. Robin Hood taxes on banking transactions and increased taxes on aviation pollution would have been a greener and fairer way to cut the deficit. Britain has the skills and natural resources to create a booming green technology sector that would drive the country's economic recovery, but proper Government support is needed to make it flourish."

"Business as usual is simply not an option,"said Bullock. "A strategic shift to a low-carbon economy must be at the centre of all the government's big decisions, starting now."

The Coalition's statement of intent for governing Britain, after the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats secured a deal after the 6 May General Election, promised “a full programme of measures to fulfil our joint ambitions for a low carbon and eco-friendly economy”

But Philip Pearson of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) says the government’s first budget "offered little more than a passing reference to the Green Investment Bank, future reforms to the price of CO2 and a renewed promise on energy efficiency."

No green 'full programme of measures' emerges, he says on the TUC's ToUChstone policy blog (http://www.touchstoneblog.org.uk/). "Instead we get old style, big picture macro-economics. A four per cent cut in corporation tax over this Parliament, reversal of NIC increases, and a regional growth fund for new business from next April."

"For the form, function and funding of the Green Investment Bank, so urgently needed to drive £200 billion into clean energy by 2020, we will have to wait," observes Pearson.

The government says that after the Spending Review, “The Government will put forward detailed proposals on the creation of a Green Investment Bank to help the UK meet the low-carbon investment challenge. The Government is considering a wide range of options for the scope and structure of the Green Investment Bank.”

But the TUC adviser points out that there is no confirmation of legislation and no mention of capitalisation.

He continues: "Controversially, Labour had intended to provide the first £1 billion funding for the Green bank from the sale of High Speed 1. Now, we learn that the sale of HS1 is 'part of a wider programme of asset commercialisation over the next 12 months.' Affiliates will be dismayed at the prospects for job security and safety issues involved in the sale of the National Air Traffic System."

"Clearly, with the recession hitting the price of carbon, the government is right to review carbon pricing," says Pearson. "It proposes to reform the climate change levy in order to provide more certainty and support to the carbon price, with legislation in 2011. The Chancellor will need to heed new evidence from a joint TUC/EUIG study that the UK’s energy intensive industries – from steelmaking to ceramics – are already hard hit by climate change energy policies."

[Ekk/3]

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