Autumn Budget 2018: Live green economy reaction
After Chancellor Philip Hammond opened his red budget box to detail a tax on plastics and a carbon price freeze, edie rounds up what key green economy leaders are making of the new financial measures for low-carbon innovations and resource efficiency.
Taking place earlier this afternoon, the Autumn Budget provided Chancellor Hammond with a golden opportunity to answer a number of key green policy questions…
A new levy on plastic packaging? A reformed carbon price? An increase to the Climate Change Levy (CCL)? Subsidies for solar power? These were just some of the key sustainability policy issues that the green economy was hoping that the Chancellor would make announcements on.
The good news: Government will introduce a new tax on the manufacture and import of plastic packaging which contains less than 30% recycled plastic by April 2022, and will extend Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECAs) for companies investing in electric vehicle charge points will be to 31 March 2023.
But on the other hand: Announcements to freeze tax increases on petrol and diesel fuel duty, along with the confirmation of further tax breaks for the North Sea oil and gas industry, were announced. Whilst a number of key green policy wishes, such as the latte levy, were not granted.
Read edie’s full breakdown of the Budget’s major talking points here.
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Autumn Budget: The green business reaction
The Solar Trade Association’s chief executive Chris Hewett:
“Investment in renewable energy has plummeted in the UK and largely for want of fair tax and market treatment. The Chancellor has again missed a vital opportunity to do the right thing, not only by the planet and the thousands of people who want to support clean energy, but by simple fair market principles.
“This government claims to support clean, green technologies, but this rhetoric is far from being matched by even the most modest of actions. Solar is the biggest clean energy market in the world today and by putting obstacles in the path of this technology the Government is frustrating the urgent energy transition and putting British industries at a disadvantage in global clean energy markets.”
The Renewable Energy Association external affairs director James Court:
“It is frustrating that another Budget comes and goes, yet the opportunity for the UK to be a genuine leader in crucial future technologies slips by. There is huge support for renewables across the country, parliament, and even within government, yet the Treasury continues to stymie the potential growth in this sector.
“Next to nothing in this budget will help build clean energy infrastructure we so desperately need, and in parts actively harms the industry. Carbon Prices frozen, tax allowances for energy products scrapped, and a continued block to market for the cheapest forms of electricity.”
PwC’s UK environmental tax leader Jayne Harrold:
“The introduction of a new tax on the manufacture and import of plastic packaging with recycled content of less than 30% is a welcome move in promoting a change of behaviour to encourage the redesign of packaging and promote the use of recycled material. The measure is planned to take effect from 1 April 2022, this three-year time lag is to give businesses time to adapt and redesign their products.
“Given the broad public support for plastic tax measures, it’s a surprise to see rejection of visible consumption taxes on targeted items which are used on the go – the infamous latte levy. This seems like a missed opportunity to lead the pack and stimulate change.”
Ramboll’s director of infrastructure and regeneration, Chris Fry:
“There is recognition in Budget 2018 that the UK’s existing infrastructure assets, buildings and urban areas need considerable TLC. This sustainable renewal agenda is addressed by the additional funding of £420m for pothole, bridge and other minor highway repairs, cutting business rates on the high street, tax adjustments for long-life assets and £10m to clean up abandoned waste sites.
“The goal to make Scotland a centre of excellence for oil and gas decommissioning should also be seen as part of this focus on sustainable renewal – utilising specialist skills and addressing legacy assets in a responsible way as part of the accelerating global transition to a low carbon energy system.”
The Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association’s (ADBA), chief executive Charlotte Morton:
“We were disappointed that the Budget did not confirm a commitment to introducing universal food waste collections in England or any further funding support to encourage local authorities to introduce these where they haven’t already done so.
“We strongly urge the Treasury, BEIS and Defra to ensure the forthcoming Resources & Waste Strategy includes these measures to help end the scandal of valuable organic materials being wasted in incineration or landfill – meeting our Carbon Budgets depends on it. As highlighted by the Committee on Climate Change, we also need urgent action on replacement for the Renewable Heat Incentive by the end of the year to ensure that generation of renewable heat continues to receive government support.”
Unicef’s director of advocacy Amy Gibbs:
“Today’s Budget was a wasted opportunity by the Government to address the key issues impacting children’s rights to survive and thrive in the UK. Unfortunately, while it showed willing to focus on children’s needs with some funding for mental health and social care support, there are still significant shortfalls.
“While Unicef UK considers the additional £20m for local authorities to tackle air pollution a step forward, it is insufficient to address the scale of the problem and damage being done to our children’s health. One in three children in the UK live in an area with dangerous levels of toxic air and they are being disproportionately affected when travelling to or at school.”
UK Green Building Council’s chief executive Julie Hirigoyen:
“Three weeks after the IPCC’s landmark report highlighted the urgent need to tackle climate change and the subsequent ambitions announced by the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, this budget is notable by the absence of any substantial clean growth measures. Indeed, a number of important policies have been hit, with the scrapping of Enhanced Capital Allowances, making it harder for companies to invest in energy efficiency improvements, and the Chancellor signalling his intention to weaken Carbon Price Support. This is at odds with the scale of the climate challenge and the urgency with which it needs to be tackled.
“In the absence of leadership on clean growth in today’s Budget, it is now more important than ever that businesses show real leadership in reducing emissions. The construction and property industry has a huge part to play; we urgently need to begin decarbonising our buildings on a path to net zero emissions. UKGBC’s Advancing Net Zero project is garnering cross-industry support for progressing action on net zero carbon buildings, and we will continue to engage with policymakers to ensure that the UK’s clean growth ambitions are realised.”
Earthwatch Europe’s chief executive Steve Gray:
“The environment was conspicuous by its absence in today’s budget. Of the few environmental announcements that were made, the Chancellor’s decision to tax the manufacture and import on plastic items containing less than 30% recycled material is a small step in the right direction. However, the government must not bury the wider challenge of tackling global climate change under topical measures to clean the oceans and the environment of plastic waste.
“The UK must enlist a holistic approach to tackle the issue and encourage sustainable choices. Britain’s businesses, local authorities and the public must all pull together as a collective to take the giant leap that is needed to create a green and sustainable planet.”
Surfers Against Sewage’s chief executive Hugo Tagholm:
“It’s important to see a Plastic Tax starting to take hold, but today’s announcement is only a start and campaigners must keep up the pressure for more ambitious and swift legislation if we are to tackle the true scale of plastic pollution in our oceans.
“The consultation period alone is enough time for the UK public to throw away over a trillion pieces of plastic – a pile of waste three and a half times as high as The Shard. Voluntary industry measures will never be enough. We need strong legislation to drive change on plastic pollution.”
FairFuelUK’s founder Howard Cox:
“Sadly and true to form, despite the continuing and welcome hold in fuel duty, this Government still does not get it when it comes to our motoring nation. No necessary cut in duty to stimulate the economy, utter silence on those greedy unchecked oil companies continuing to fleece hard-pressed motorists at will, and no incentives to move to practical low emissions solutions to improve our air quality.
“And, if Brexit collapses, there is the spectre of crippling tax hikes at the pumps to come. A hollow Budget, from and out of touch Chancellor who’s clueless to what to do with UK roads, public transport and our freedom of mobility.”
“We are not here to declare war on the Treasury, but to many of us it feels like the Treasury, along with the Department for Environment, are waging war on drivers, bikers and anyone who uses a van or lorry. The easiest of targets to fill the coffers at the Treasury.”
The ESA’s executive director Jacob Hayler:
“The industry has long been calling for measures to support end markets for recycling. Today the Chancellor has listened, and we welcome proposals to introduce a new tax on plastic packaging that contains less than 30% recycled content. Without stimulating the demand for recycled material, higher recycling rates will be unachievable.
“We are pleased that the Treasury has recognised that this is the most effective way to ensure the right incentives are in place for recycling, rather than to penalise Energy from Waste. An incineration tax would only burden local authorities and industry without doing anything to support greater recycling, and we are glad that the Treasury recognises the importance of Energy from Waste in sustainable waste management.
“This Budget has provided positive signs that the Government is taking seriously the need to manage our resources and waste carefully. We look forward to working with the Treasury on implementing a new plastics packaging tax to deliver a more circular economy.”
Greenpeace UK’s executive director John Sauven:
‘We’re currently in the middle of a plastics pollution crisis and yet the Chancellor failed to take even small steps towards stemming the flow of single-use plastics by choosing not to introduce a tax on disposable coffee cups and ignoring calls for a tax on brand new plastic.
“Philip Hammond claims he cares about restoring nature for the next generation, but this Budget represents a major fail in delivering on this vision.”
The Marine Conservation Society’s senior pollution officer Sue Kinsey:
“These moves don’t go far enough. We need wholesale changes with a focus on reduction to prevent our oceans becoming a plastic soup. The only way to turn the plastic tide is for the Government to drive through major changes in producer and consumer behaviour through a range of charges, taxes, incentives and targets.
“With evidence of fraud and misuse in our plastic recycling industry, we must also tackle our inability to recycle our own waste, by investing in our domestic recycling infrastructure.”
The Woodland Trust’s director of conservation Abi Bunker:
“£10m for tree-planting and £50m in carbon credits for woodland-planting landowners, while a welcome start, is only a step in the right direction to re-green our deforested country and tackle our climate change crisis. The problem is greater than just having the funds to deliver increased tree planting.
“As well as more money we need clarity about how land use will be supported post-Brexit, regulations that are easier to understand, more accessible grants schemes and a better connection between those creating woodland and the wider societal benefits.”
Friends of the Earth’s campaign director Liz Hutchins:
“World scientists warn we are hurtling towards runaway climate chaos, yet the Chancellor has kept oil and gas tax breaks, boosted road-building and frozen fuel duty. Astonishing.”
Friends of the Earth’s plastic campaign lead Julian Kirby:
“It’s astonishing that the Chancellor has gone cold on a ‘latte levy’, just when we needed him to turn up the heat on plastic polluters.
“A tax on virgin plastic packaging would be a welcome step – but if we’re going to stem the huge tide of plastic waste pouring into UK waterways every year, far bolder action is needed.”
Below, our live blog recaps the biggest budget announcements and what they could mean for the UK’s low-carbon transition – as well as the day’s reactions from green economy leaders.
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