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Budget 2023: E for environment

With the Spring Budget announced yesterday we take a quick glance at what’s in it for the environment.

The chancellor announced when addressing parliament yesterday that the focus of his first budget would be on four E’s: enterprise, employment, education and everywhere but a fifth E for environment which many were hoping would have been included was not mentioned. 

Does this mean therefore that the Chancellor has given the environment low priority and focus when preparing the Spring Budget?

To all intents and purposes the answer to that question is a mixed one of yes's and no’s.

Carbon capture storage technologies, nuclear and energy relief support were the main focus for the Spring Budget in terms of money for investment in the environment.  There is a £20bn support package to be put in place for technologies in carbon capture storage and new innovative funding for nuclear, with nuclear now being referred to by the UK government as ‘environmentally sustainable’ and it being ‘vital to meet Net Zero obligations’ extension of the energy support scheme.  However there was little focus on other low carbon innovation such as renewables for wind, solar, putting in place energy efficiency measures, investment in hydrogen and electric vehicles.

The chancellor announced that there will be 12 new investment zones with eight proposed in England and four in devolved nations with each investment zone to receive up to £80 million in funding which it is hoped could boost economic growth and reduce emissions.  Each zone will have to demonstrate how it will support the UK in reaching net zero targets and targets for nature.  However as pointed out in one report the language used by the UK government is vague and guarantees are needed to ensure that current  environmental standards  are met.  It is also worth mentioning that green industries feature as one of the five key sectors these innovation zones will focus on.

From an NGO's perspective the Wildlife Trust were ‘delighted’ that the UK government have maintained the overall value of the Landfill Communities Fund describing the fund as a highly innovative environmental  tax credit scheme that provides much needed funds for the community and environmental projects across the country.  But in the wider budget the Trust was concerned about the investment planned in new road building rather than the focus for investment in more sustainable forms of transport.  Friends of the Earth referred to the Spring Budget  as ‘astonishing that the chancellor continues to allow fossil fuel firms to rake in enormous profits while cash strapped households continue to struggle with household bills'.

Clearly a deeper analysis of the Spring Budget will need to be made but initial thoughts are that the lack of any plans for significant investment in renewables such as wind and solar, sustainable transport, and supporting energy efficiency in buildings are missed opportunities and raises concerns regarding meeting the target for net zero.  

However with the new Net Zero Strategy shortly to be published together with a response to the Skidmore Net Zero review, there is hope that there will be positive news for the environment with Chris Stark the Chief Executive of the Climate Change Committee having tweeted that the government will be having a 'green moment' at the end of the month so for the moment it seems like it's a case of ‘watch this space’.