Recent UK government environment policy announcements have driven, not just a coach and horses, but a huge articulated lorry through any hope of reducing the UK’s carbon footprint. In a budget redolent of hubris George Osbourne has taken the “greenest government ever” and chucked it down an oil well, much to the joy of his back benchers.
According to Business Green the budget had a “climate shaped hole” at its centre and they are not wrong. In 2010 the chancellor said, “We need a recovery that is sustainable environmentally, not just economically. I believe that this can be a huge opportunity – greening our economy can be a win-win solution.” In this recent budget the chancellor has set the UK on a path to even more emissions.
New roads are to be built, fuel duty has been frozen yet again and from 2017 the cost of buying a car to run on these roads will be the same for a low carbon hybrid as a gas guzzler. Tax breaks for North Sea oil and gas has been stretched even further. There was even a hint at developing a sovereign wealth fund to help communities blighted by shale gas development.
On the energy front; subsidies for onshore wind farms have gone the way of the dodo and the Green Investment Bank is to be “privatised”. And to quote the Guardian, “– the big one was scrapping the exemption that renewable electricity producers had under the climate change levy, a tax that is meant to help cut emissions. In effect, a green tax just became an energy tax. As one Friends of the Earth campaigner put it, it’s “like making apple juice pay an alcohol tax”.
In addition to the budget changes there is even more evidence of the government’s callous disregard for the future. The Zero Carbon homes initiative announced in 2006 which gave house builders ten years to ensure that every home built from 2016 onwards would be zero carbon has been unceremoniously dumped. The plan was to improve insulation standards and encourage energy generation on site. So we are left with a housing stock that is some of the least efficient in Europe and no real plans to improve new homes. As Ed Davey former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said. “We may as well hug a coal fired power station”.
And then there is Heathrow, the third runway that Cameron said in 2009 – “–is just not going to happen… there is such a coalition of forces against it.” But the latest report on it from the Airports Commission now says it is the best option. In a statement of such incredible idiocy the report found for example that;
- London’s airports are showing signs of ‘strain’ and the entire system would be full by 2040 without action
- A new runway will generate up to £147billion in economic output over 60 years and create more than 70,000 jobs by 2050
What really? I wish I could forecast so far ahead. Over this 25 to 35 year timescale, as reserves diminish, oil could become so expensive that flying anywhere will be the preserve of the mega rich. By 2040 – 2050 and a population of 9bn, the world will be such a different place that even feeding London’s millions could be a major headache.
I can only hope that the Palace of Westminster will crumble and fall on their heads before they get a chance to do any more damage.