Budget 2021: Environmentalists blast Rishi Sunak’s plans for ‘green growth’

The Chancellor announced plans for ‘green growth’ in his Budget today – but they were criticised for being ‘way short’ of the action required to tackle climate change.

Rishi Sunak heralded a new national infrastructure bank in Leeds with £12billion to finance a green industrial revolution and £15billion of new green gilts this year. 

There were also changes to the remit of the Bank of England so it reflects the importance of environmental sustainability and the shift to net zero emission.

Further plans included allowing UK savers to invest in a green National Savings and Investment product, and new funding to upgrade ports to support offshore wind.

Also revealed was £88million for two separate UK competitions to develop floating offshore wind demonstrators and long-duration energy storage technology. 

But Mr Sunak only dwelt briefly on environmental measures in the 51-minute speech in the Commons today, in which he also announced fuel duty would be frozen again.

An engineering vessel is moored alongside the EDF offshore wind farm in Teesport yesterday

An engineering vessel is moored alongside the EDF offshore wind farm in Teesport yesterday

An engineering vessel is moored alongside the EDF offshore wind farm in Teesport yesterday

Chancellor Rishi Sunak stands at 11 Downing Street before heading to the Commons today

Chancellor Rishi Sunak stands at 11 Downing Street before heading to the Commons today

Chancellor Rishi Sunak stands at 11 Downing Street before heading to the Commons today

And he was silent on the Government’s flagship ‘green homes grant’ scheme paying householders to make their properties more energy efficient.

This has been beset by delays and the threat of funding being pulled, with analysis finding it will help just 8 per cent of its target 600,000 homes by the end of March.

What were the Budget’s ‘green growth’ policies?

  • National infrastructure bank with £12billion to finance a green industrial revolution 
  • £15billion of new green gilts this year
  • Changes to the remit of the Bank of England so it reflects the importance of environmental sustainability and the shift to net zero emissions
  • Plans to allow UK savers to invest in a green National Savings and Investment product.
  • New funding to upgrade ports to support offshore wind
  • £20million for a UK-wide competition to develop floating offshore wind demonstrators
  • £68million for a UK-wide competition on long-duration energy storage technology
  • £4million for a biomass feedstocks programme to identify ways to increase the production of green energy crops and forest products that can be used for energy
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Responding to the Budget speech this afternoon, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘The biggest challenge for this country is the climate emergency.

‘The Chancellor talks up his green credentials but his Budget stops way short of what is needed or what is happening in other countries.

‘This Budget should have included a major green stimulus, bringing forward billions of pounds of investment to create new jobs and new green infrastructure.’

Instead, Sir Keir said, the Government was trying to build a new coal mine which might not even work for British steel, referring to plans for a mine in Cumbria amid warnings the coking coal it produces may not be usable in UK steelworks.

‘If anything sums up this Government’s commitment to a green recovery and jobs for the future it’s building a coal mine we can’t even use,’ he said.

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas tweeted: ‘Is that it, Rishi? We needed an ambitious budget for a greener, fairer future but we got one that traps us in a broken past.’

She added: ‘Our economy would be better served by a Chancellor who cared more about hedgehogs than hedge funds.’

Crispin Truman, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the countryside charity, said the Budget was disappointing for climate action and rural communities.

‘What we need is for the Government to help create green and sustainable jobs up and down the country that help real people, while also making the UK economy greener,’ he said. 

The Campaign to Protect Rural England said the Budget was 'disappointing' for climate action

The Campaign to Protect Rural England said the Budget was 'disappointing' for climate action

The Campaign to Protect Rural England said the Budget was ‘disappointing’ for climate action

The Green Alliance think tank asked in a statement: 'Was this a budget for climate and nature?'

The Green Alliance think tank asked in a statement: 'Was this a budget for climate and nature?'

The Green Alliance think tank asked in a statement: ‘Was this a budget for climate and nature?’

But he warned there was ‘nothing green’ about jobs created by a new coal mine.

What has been said about the Budget’s green policies? 

‘The Chancellor talks up his green credentials but his Budget stops way short of what is needed or what is happening in other countries.

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour leader

‘What we need is for the Government to help create green and sustainable jobs up and down the country that help real people, while also making the UK economy greener’

Crispin Truman, Campaign to Protect Rural England chief executive

‘Our economy would be better served by a Chancellor who cared more about hedgehogs than hedge funds.’

Caroline Lucas, Green Party leader 

‘Today’s budget was a missed opportunity to launch a green, equitable recovery to put people on a secure footing and address the UK’s debilitating inequalities.’ 

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Labour MP

‘The pace of change doesn’t reflect the urgency of the climate and nature crises that the UK and the world faces.’

Green Alliance think tank

‘This half-hearted approach to climate leadership has left the UK running out of time and credibility, just when we need them most.’

Greenpeace spokesman 

‘Below the surface of vague commitments to ‘low-carbon investment’, the UK Government is continuing on the current course we have been warned is so dangerous.’

Extinction Rebellion spokesman

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‘He should be stimulating jobs in areas like Cumbria with renewable energy and energy efficiency, rather than through a coal mine that will be disastrous for carbon emissions and disastrous for our international reputation on climate in equal measure,’ he said. 

And Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy tweeted: ‘The pandemic has shown how a decade of austerity weakened the foundations of our economy and our society.

‘Today’s budget was a missed opportunity to launch a green, equitable recovery to put people on a secure footing and address the UK’s debilitating inequalities.’

Her fellow Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey added: ‘In today’s Budget, Rishi Sunak spoke about a Green Industrial Revolution – but his weak proposals are just another attempt to claim credit for a good idea he’s too afraid to pursue.’

And the Green Alliance think tank said in a statement: ‘Was this a budget for climate and nature? The good news is HM Treasury is slowly moving in a greener direction. 

‘But the pace of change doesn’t reflect the urgency of the climate and nature crises that the UK and the world faces.’

And a spokesman for activist group Extinction Rebellion said: ‘Today’s Budget announcement shows that below the surface of vague commitments to ‘low-carbon investment’, the UK Government is continuing on the current course we have been warned is so dangerous. 

‘Not only will the government cut £1billion from net-zero spending intended to help insulate homes as part of the ‘green homes grant’ scheme, they are also allowing airports to expand, new coal mines to be built and investment to flow from the UK’s banking and financial sector to new fossil fuel projects.

‘There is no longer any argument that urgent and transformative action is needed on the climate and ecological crisis, and yet it is clearly still not happening.’ 

A Greenpeace spokesman added: ‘Rishi’s vague slogans aren’t going to cut emissions, and neither will the green homes grant now it’s dropped off the Government’s agenda.

‘This half-hearted approach to climate leadership has left the UK running out of time and credibility, just when we need them most.’

But the renewables industry welcomed moves on offshore wind, through investment in ports and plans for freeports.

Industry body RenewableUK’s chief executive Hugh McNeal said this represented a ‘huge boost’ to the sector’s export ambitions.  

Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy said the Budget was a 'missed opportunity' for a green recovery

Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy said the Budget was a 'missed opportunity' for a green recovery

Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy said the Budget was a ‘missed opportunity’ for a green recovery

Greenpeace criticised 'vague slogans' from Chancellor Rishi Sunak in a tweet posted today

Greenpeace criticised 'vague slogans' from Chancellor Rishi Sunak in a tweet posted today

Greenpeace criticised ‘vague slogans’ from Chancellor Rishi Sunak in a tweet posted today 

Pledged in the Conservative Party 2019 manifesto, Mr Sunak announced that East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe and Harwich, the Humber region, the Liverpool City region, Plymouth, Solent, Thames and Teesside are all set to benefit from the post-Brexit status as freeports.

Where will the eight freeport locations be? 

The sites for the eight freeports in England have been revealed as part of the Chancellor’s Budget. 

The renewables industry welcomed moves on offshore wind, through investment in plans for freeports. 

The following locations are all set to benefit from the post-Brexit status: 

  • East Midlands Airport
  • Felixstowe and Harwich
  • Humber region
  • Liverpool City region
  • Plymouth
  • Solent
  • Thames
  • Teesside
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Mr Sunak said the ‘special economic zones with different rules to make it easier and cheaper to do business’ would come with simpler planning, cheaper customs – with favourable tariffs, VAT or duties – and lower taxes, with ‘tax breaks to encourage construction, private investment and job creation’.

The announcement, which could potentially boost investment, comes only weeks before the local and mayoral elections, with the Tories looking to hang on to the Tees Valley mayoral seat, currently held by Ben Houchen, in May.

Speaking about the freeport site in Felixstowe and Harwich, green entrepreneur Jo Bamford said: ‘The PM has said the UK will be ‘putting a big bet on hydrogen’ and the Budget’s green light for the Freeport East Hydrogen Hub is a major step towards delivering on these words. 

‘The Freeport East Hydrogen Hub will support the creation of thousands of green jobs and feature innovative uses in hydrogen for zero emissions buses, construction equipment, marine and agriculture. 

‘Crucially, these UK-made Net Zero technologies can be in use within 12 months and will place East Anglia at the forefront of the global hydrogen economy.’ 

And commenting on the launch of green savings bonds, Huw Evans, director general of the Association of British Insurers, said: ‘We welcome the launch of green bonds.

‘They will help the Government raise funds to invest in renewable energy and green projects, with savers playing their part in helping speed up the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy.’

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