Budget Failed to Boost Green Industries

Central Government, Environmental Policies

Last week’s Budget failed to boost green industries as February comes in as the world’s warmest – 1.77c warmer than “pre-industrial” times – the EU’s climate service says, extending the run of monthly records to nine in a row.

Each month since June 2023 has seen new temperature highs for the time of year. Temperatures are still being boosted by the Pacific’s El Niño, although its impact is starting to diminish.

Human-caused climate change is by far the main driver of the warmth. “Heat-trapping greenhouse gases are unequivocally the main culprit,” stresses Prof Celeste Saulo, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization. Carbon dioxide concentrations are at their highest level for at least two million years, according to the UN’s climate body, and increased by near-record levels again over the past year.

Those warming gases helped make February 2024 about 1.77C warmer than “pre-industrial” times – before humans started burning large amounts of fossil fuels – according to the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, which breaks the 2016 previous record, by around 0.12C. The world’s sea surface is at its warmest on record, while Antarctic sea-ice has again reached extreme lows.

The Met Office recently reported that England and Wales had their warmest February on record this year. The average temperature for England was 7.5C, with an average of 6.9C in Wales. The UK as a whole saw its second warmest recorded February.

Meanwhile Wednesday’s budget failed to boost green industries offering little to boost the UK’s economy, currently in recession, by virtually ignoring the ‘green’ industry apart from some minor measures. This was a remarkable failure to recognise one of the fastest-expanding areas of business – the net zero economy – which grew by 9% in key areas last year.

Some commentators believe that this failure could drag down the UK in the short and long term while the US and the EU are expanding their investments in green industries. Alasdair Johnstone, of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, reinforced the point by saying that: “At a time when the US and EU are competing over investment in clean industries, there was little here to attract investment.”

Instead, the chancellor Jeremy Hunt, decided to freeze fuel duty for the 14th year running, while rail fares and the cost of rail season tickets have risen annually over the same period. The few green measures that were announced included £120m for the green industries growth accelerator initiative, to be spent on emerging low-carbon technologies; a £270m push for zero-carbon aviation and road vehicles; a £1.5bn extension of the windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas to 2029, which has upset the few Conservative MP’s representing Scottish constituencies; more money for offshore wind developers, to encourage them to bid to build new projects after previous offshore wind auctions failed; and slightly higher duties on business class flights.

However, there was nothing to boost homes insulation, the rollout of heat pumps and other measures which could improve our energy security and lower energy bills for people. It was the lack of a clear strategy for combining the need to reach net zero by 2050 with the growth opportunities offered by low-carbon technologies that most dismayed green economists.

Read more about this from The Guardian here.