We’ve already heard the prime minister promise, in recent days, that this will be a green Budget. Obviously, this is welcome news.
But we need more than promises.
The prime minister promised a green economic stimulus, but it never materialised. New funding for greening the economy comes to just 0.6 per cent of the country’s total stimulus package to date.
Mr Brown pledged that the UK would meet its legally-binding EU renewable energy target for 2020 but we’re going to miss the targets for 2010. If these new targets are going to mean anything then offshore wind needs an urgent boost in the Budget. Without a rapid expansion in offshore wind capacity, the UK will struggle to meet the 2020 target and will also miss out on the opportunity to create tens of thousands of new jobs.
The government must set up and fund a Green Infrastructure Bank backed by green bonds, which could leverage over £100 bn in private finance to help create a dynamic low carbon energy system.
The Budget should also see the government abandoning the unfocussed cut in VAT, which is costing nearly £1bn every month, and divert the cash into an efficiency programme.
A smart efficiency programme would be the most cost-effective means of addressing carbon emissions, fuel poverty and kick-starting the industrial transformation of the UK economy. An annual £5bn investment programme in energy efficiency could create around 55,000 jobs directly, hundreds of thousands indirectly and cut emissions of carbon dioxide by about 1.6m tonnes.
When talking about this year’s green budget, Mr Brown spoke at length about electric cars. But our European competitors, such as Denmark, are rolling out national plans while we discuss pilot schemes.
There needs to be a greater sense of urgency that will bring much needed jobs and help reduce emissions that cause climate change. The economy and the environment won’t be saved by promises alone.