Environment takes a back seat in emergency budget

Green initiatives were on show in the emergency budget but took a back seat to some £11 billion of cuts and VAT rise to 20%.

Everyone in business, or in receipt of benefits, will see changes to their income as this budget is implemented over the coming months.

But, there was green news as Britain's chancellor, George Osborne, reaffirmed his support for a Green Investment Bank, but this was not much of a surprise as this policy had wide-spread political support before the election.

Mr Osborne, did however, use the occasion to again highlight the fact the bank will generate more money for investment into renewable and green technologies.

He said: "We will also take forward our plans to create a Green Investment Bank, bringing forward private investment in clean energy and green technologies."

Towards the end of his speech, and just before he announced he was dropping plans to increase tax on cider, the chancellor did give us a glimpse of future green policies.

Mr Osborne has promised to look into the aviation tax system and keep a closer eye on oil prices.

He said: "We will explore changes to the aviation tax system, including switching from a per-passenger to a per-plane duty, and consult on major changes, that will help reduce our carbon emissions.

"We are examining the impact of sharp fluctuations in the price of oil on the public finances, to see if pump prices can be stabilised."

Initial business backing has been positive for the green benefits with Climate Change Capital's vice-chairman James Cameron, saying: "We warmly welcome today's budget.

"It sets out an ambitious set of proposals for stimulating investment in the low carbon economy, with key policies including energy market reform, the creation of a Green Investment Bank and the introduction of a reformed upstream Climate Change Levy.

"Many of these proposals are subject to consultation, so we hope that this process helps to ensure that policies are able to deliver low carbon investment at the speed and scale required to tackle climate change, while also creating the industries and jobs of the future."

Charities were less optimistic with the RSPB's head of sustainable development, Martin Harper, warning against cuts.

He said: "We urge him [Mr Osborne] not to reduce the funding that underpins conservation in our countryside.

"We understand Defra has been asked to contribute to the reduction in the deficit with cuts of at least 25% to its budget over the next four years, but cutting conservation spend would be a false economy.

"Agri-environment funding helps farmers protect water supplies, carbon stores, wildlife and habitats while bringing European money into the British economy.

"The Higher Level Scheme in particular underpins efforts to halt the steep declines in our farmland birds and to improve some of our most important wildlife sites.

"All these things pay us back much more than we put in and their loss would be felt long, long after the budget deficit is an unpleasant memory."

Luke Walsh


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