Britain’s Chancellor Rishi Sunak will tomorrow deliver his first Budget, and with the UK this year hosting the COP26 climate talks, there is an increased focus on what could be – and should be – included in his measures.
“This is the government’s opportunity, in the year of the COP, to show true global leadership on the climate crisis,” says former UK Energy Secretary Ed Miliband.
“We need a significantly tougher UK target for 2030 put in place this year to encourage other countries to follow and a Budget that puts tackling the climate emergency at its heart. This will take investment but making these decisions will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, improve our natural environment, cut air pollution and make Britain a better place to live.
“It makes economic and environmental sense. The time to act is now.”
Miliband is now co-chair of the cross-party Environmental Justice Commission set up by think-tank IPPR, and his co-chair is former Green party leader Caroline Lucas.
Both Lucas and Miliband argue that the government must match its declaration of a climate emergency and legal commitment to a net zero target with the public investment needed – much of which would also deliver on government promises to ‘level up’ the nation.
The IPPR has carried out research into the scale of public investment that the Chancellor should be committing to in order for the UK is to hit its net zero target, and it concludes that the UK must invest an additional £33bn per year in total to ensure the economy is on path to reach the net zero target of 2050.
It states that around £12bn per year of the additional annual investment would need to be in low-carbon transport and some £10bn per year in low-carbon buildings.
The government is currently spending £17bn per year on climate and environment but the IPPR states that it would need to invest at least a further £11bn just to achieve their previous target of an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050”.
The IPPR analysis highlights the need for a Just Transition Fund “to ensure the decarbonisation of industry doesn’t unfairly damage affected communities and allows them to reap the benefits and opportunities that the transition will bring”.
To hit net zero, the IPPR says the UK will need “to be running on renewable energy; industry will need to be using mostly carbon-free processes; all homes and other buildings will have to be fully insulated; and public transport will need to be fast and abundant”.
Caroline Lucas said this week’s Budget “will be a litmus test of whether the government understand the climate crisis, and on the basis of the evidence, they are falling terrifyingly short of what is needed.
“With likely shocks to the economy because of the coronavirus outbreak, and the accelerating climate emergency, investing in a Green New Deal is now more important than ever.
“It wouldn’t only help us address the climate and nature emergencies, it would transform almost every aspect of our economy and society and deliver on government promises to ‘level up’ the nation by making our economy fairer and fit for the future.”
Players in the UK energy sector also want to see significant action from the Chancellor. Chris Russell, chief executive and co-founder of renewable energy company Tonik Energy, said: “Britain is decarbonizing faster than anywhere else in the world and we can see tangible strides are being made towards a zero-emission future. The Chancellor must use the Budget as an opportunity to make dirty energy a thing of the past and ensure we maintain this pace of change, particularly as developments in the heat and transport sectors are creating an increased demand for electric power.”
Russell added that “as well as solidifying its commitment to energy efficiency upgrades to social and low income households, we hope to see a whole investment plan to meet the aim of getting all homes to EPC band C rating by 2035”.
“The key will be in connecting people with new technologies and innovative ways to power their homes to ensure we are collectively committed to acting on the threat posed to our planet. By turning buildings into power stations through the use of solar panels and giving people the power to generate and store their own electricity, we can all benefit from a cheaper, greener and more sustainable energy future.”
Meanwhile, Rachel Nutt, Head of Renewable & Sustainable Energy at firm MHA MacIntyre Hudson, comments that the Chancellor would be missing a trick not to propose tax breaks for bio fuels or a Renewable Heat Incentive scheme (RHI).
“The whole of the renewables industry is hoping that the Chancellor will respond in this year’s Budget with either a new tariff regime or a tax incentive to provide the lifeline the sector needs to help us all strive for carbon neutrality.
“What we don’t need to see is a sticking plaster approach to boosting renewables in isolated parts of our economy. To really achieve Carbon Zero, we need a budget that brings joined-up thinking across all sectors. There is significant pressure to have solar and wind as our main power solution, but on a cold still winter’s night these energy sources will not be enough to heat and power our UK homes – especially when we all have electric vehicles too. Furthermore, much of the country’s housing stock is not suited to low level heat from ground or air-source solutions.
“Hopefully, the government will look again at bio fuel solutions and perhaps a further RHI scheme or an improved extension.”