Two steps forward, one step back: UK touts zero carbon future but backs fossils


The UK government made history this week, when it took the first step towards enshrining the Paris goal of a zero emissions future into law. But just days after the announcement it is accused of not putting “enough fuel in the tank to get us there”, as it delivered a 2016 Budget that continues to prop up an ailing oil and gas industry to the tune of £1 billion. While there was some good news in the budget for climate change, including new funding for renewables and additional support for flood defences, it appears the Chancellor didn’t get the “memo about the government’s plan to build a net-zero emission economy”. Beyond missing the memo, the Chancellor isn’t hearing the countless calls from all sectors of society, including think-tanks, conservative MPs and even the big energy industry, demanding the government invest in the energy infrastructure of the future. If the UK truly aims to lead the world in “translating the Paris agreement into domestic policy”its long-term vision will need stronger short-term policies so it can cash in on the huge benefits this transition has to offer.


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  • “The Chancellor spoke at length about this being a Budget for the next generation. But there are few greater threats to the security and prosperity of our children and grandchildren than climate change, something he singularly failed to address. Given the Government’s commitment on Monday to enshrining a zero carbon future in law, it is unfortunate that he passed up a clear opportunity to boost sustainable economic growth by supporting the low carbon economy. Instead he chose to prop up the struggling oil and gas industry. More money for flood defences will be widely welcomed, but we will only get real value from our investment if we are using it to manage our land properly. We need to reduce the rate at which water runs off it rather than simply building more, higher walls.” – David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of WWF-UK
  • “The Chancellor’s Budget was full of ‘next generation rhetoric’, but tax breaks for the climate-wrecking oil and gas industry pose a real threat to the security of people, the economy and planet. It’s almost as if the recent UN climate agreement never occurred. What happened in Paris, appears to have stayed in Paris… This Government should do far more to develop the UK’s huge renewable energy potential – creating jobs and putting us at the forefront of building an economy fit for the challenges of the future.” – Friends of the Earth campaigner Liz Hutchins
  • “It’s fantastic that, this morning, the Prime Minister put us on the road to a largely carbon free energy system by 2030, but the Chancellor hasn’t put enough fuel in the tank to get us there.Funding less than 1 GW a year of offshore wind in the 2020s, with nothing for mature renewables, will leave a big gap in power generation, however fast we pursue nuclear and gas. This is another example of the government being strong on climate targets and weak on driving the necessary investment.” – Matthew Spencer of Green Alliance
  • “Once again the Chancellor is taking the country down a dangerous path by ignoring the threat of climate change. 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. This Budget again ignores the huge economic, employment and energy security benefits of moving away from fossil fuels and towards clean, home grown renewable energy.” – Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP
  • “This Budget will have a mixed impact on the fight against climate change. The announcement of a new round of auctions for contracts to be awarded to offshore wind and other less established renewables is very welcome, although it is not clear if this will be sufficient to ensure the UK meets its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the next ten years. But it is disappointing that the Government will proceed with its decision, announced in the last Autumn Statement, to extend the Climate Change Levy to renewable energy. By making renewable energy more expensive, this move will hinder efforts to reduce emissions. However, this move has been slightly mitigated by this Budget, which will increase the Climate Change Levy rate on natural gas compared with electricity.” – Professor Sam Fankhauser, Co-Director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science
  • “We welcome the Chancellor’s announcement that funding will be available for future rounds of competitive auctions to support offshore wind farms. The budget is tight but we’re up for the challenge. We’re confident that today’s announcement will deliver 3.5 gigawatts of new offshore wind capacity between 2021 and 2025 – powering more than 3.5 million British homes. This budget shows that offshore wind will be cheaper than new nuclear power and competing with gas by 2025, making it even better value for money. Today’s announcement will increase confidence, attracting billions of pounds of investment in the UK’s supply chain. It’s such a long term commitment which will keep the UK as the number one destination in the world for investors in this technology.” – RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive Maf Smith
  • “This is another historic first for UK climate policy, following on from its pioneering legislation on the UK Climate Change Act. The government’s commitment to reach net-zero emissions this century is a key symbolic step in translating the Paris agreement into domestic policy – one we hope that other countries will soon follow.” – Damien Morris, Sandbag’s Head of Policy
  • “The government believes that we will need to take the step of enshrining the Paris goal for net zero emissions in UK law. The question is not whether but how we do it. There is an important set of questions to be answered before we do. The Committee on Climate Change is looking at the implications of the commitments in Paris and has said it will report in the Autumn. We will want to consider carefully the recommendations of the Committee.” – Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom
  • “It is the right thing to do because the science demands it, it makes economic sense and will build momentum in the fight against climate change,” he said. “It is essential we build on the success of the Paris agreement and do not squander it and I hope other countries will no follow the example of the UK.” – Ed Miliband, ex-Labour leader and former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

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