With this government making claims to be the greenest ever, how has the environment fared in the spending cuts this month?
The spending cuts were a mixed bag for the environment, and although there were some positives, there were plenty of valuable schemes cut. Although the Government is accepting the need for an active industrial policy to push the UK towards a green recovery, and deliver a low carbon economy, there were some very damaging cuts to green measures in housing and transport, which will hit the poorest hardest.
One of the schemes that didn’t avoid the cuts was the Warm Front energy efficiency grants, and when combined with cuts to bus services and a review of fuel poverty targets, these cuts will hit those who are already struggling. However, positive news surrounds Feed-in Tariffs and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which has been given the go-ahead by the Chancellor. This means that from 2011 it will be easier for households, farmers and institutions like schools to slash their fuel bills by installing heat pumps, solar hot water and bio-gas systems. The benefits go much further, too: cutting carbon emissions and helping the UK wean itself off a precarious reliance on imported gas and oil.
“The proposals for a renewable heat incentive as set out in the Comprehensive Spending Review are really good news for commercial and domestic producers and consumers.”
–William Woresley, Country Land and Business Association
In further positive news, the Chancellor re-committed in his 20th October speech to introducing a Green Investment Bank (GIB). Whilst this is a positive step forward, there are a few problems with the plan: only £1 billion was promised, and that is not till 2013. Whilst the promise of revenues from the sale of assets is welcome, figures in the range of £4- 6 billion are needed and it is uncertain how much would be raised, and when. A Green Investment Bank is critical to the UK’s low-carbon future; however, it needs more money and needs to happen fast. Further plans for the GIB will be released in May next year, with staff and office systems in place by the end of 2011 ahead of a planned launch in September 2012. Although it is positive that the Government is taking care to ensure the bank is properly designed, it needs to move forward more urgently.
“This bank will provide crucial funds for major green developments, such as off-shore wind projects, which will slash emissions, increase our energy security and create thousands of new jobs. We must do much more to build a low carbon economy – but [the] announcement is a massive stride in the right direction.”
-Andy Atkins, Friends of the Earth
We need to put pressure on the Government to see that the GIB is properly funded and set up ahead of plans. It is a fantastic opportunity for the UK Government to lead the way and we need to make it happen. Go to www.foe.org.uk/get_involved/green_economy to get involved.