Brown’s budget funds climate change fight

Climate campaigners welcomed the numerous emission-cutting measures contained in Gordon Brown's 10th budget, including an increased carbon levy and efforts to improve the energy efficiency of homes, as important steps in the right direction.

Criticism from environmentalists and rival political parties was targeted at the extent of the measures, and the failure to adequately tackle road vehicle pollution through taxes (see related story).

Specific measures aimed at reducing the UK’s carbon emissions in the new budget include an increase in the climate change levy in line with inflation, help with insulating new and existing buildings, and £50m for microgeneration technologies aimed at enabling homes and businesses to generate their own green electricity.

The chancellor also announced plans for a new energy and environmental research institute in the UK.

On the international front, Gordon Brown said he will propose a $20bn World Bank fund for investments in clean energy generation in the developing world, and promised to strengthen the EU emissions trading scheme, as well as extending it beyond 2012.

“With 98% of emissions occurring outside of Britain, climate change is a global issue, which demands global solutions,” he said.

Announcing the Budget on Thursday, Gordon Brown said that climate change measures have helped the Government meet Kyoto targets so far.

“And in each of the next 5 years these climate change measures will cut emissions by more than 6 million tonnes, accounting by 2010 for 40 per cent of our total carbon reductions,” he said.

But Friends of the Earth said that the new measures will not enable the Government to reach its own target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2010.

“Carbon dioxide emissions are rising. We need to see mandatory targets set to reduce this pollution each year in line with a clear carbon budget to ensure that its strategy is kept on course,” said Friends of the Earth Scotland chief executive Duncan McLaren.

Guy Thompson, director of environmental think-tank Green Alliance, welcomed the household energy efficiency measures:

“This is the greenest Budget since the Chancellor introduced the Climate Change Levy. Gordon Brown has set the right direction of travel on climate change and these measures signal intent to start changing behaviour at a household level.”

But “without determined action, today’s measures on household energy efficiency will be quickly swallowed up by increases in carbon emissions from industry and transport,” he said.

Conservative shadow environment secretary Peter Ainsworth criticised the budget as lacking long-term incentives for industry to invest in clean technologies, and said the chancellor had “merely tinkered at the edges of existing policy.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell criticised the extent of the measures: “Green taxes have fallen as a share of overall taxation under this government and the measures that the Chancellor has announced today are little more than a token gesture.”

“Under this Chancellor, the polluter isn’t paying. The bare fact is that CO2 emissions are higher than they were in 1997, and they are continuing to rise.”

By Goska Romanowicz

A summary of the environmental measures contained in the budget can be accessed at the Treasury website.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie