Budget 2017: Live green business reaction

Did Philip Hammond pull any big green surprises out of his little red box today? Or were key sustainability issues once again placed on the back-burner in the Chancellor's Autumn Budget? Here's the live action and green business reaction, as it comes in...

Taking place at 12:30pm this afternoon (22 November), 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? Higher taxes for diesel vehicles? Multi-million-pound spending on EV charging infrastructure? These were the key sustainability policy issues where the Chancellor was expected to deliver good news. 

The green business community will be buoyed by £400m investment in EV charging infrastructure, higher diesel taxes, a new £220m Clean Air Fund for local authorities, and confirmation of a consultation on a tax system on single-use plastic items to reduce waste.

But on the other hand, freezes to air passenger and fuel duty, alongside tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, will come as a disappointment to those in the sustainability sphere.

You can read edie’s full breakdown of the Budget’s major talking points here

Autumn Budget: The green business reaction


James Court, head of policy and external affairs, Renewable Energy Association:

“Whilst the announcements for electric vehicles are positive, the UK government seem to be turning their back on renewables by announcing no new support for projects post 2020 and a freeze on carbon taxes. This could see a hiatus in much needed infrastructure development. Considering this is coming only a couple of months after the much vaunted Clean Growth Plan, it’s hugely disappointing.

“The Chancellor talked about embracing the future in his speech, yet hid away the details that he was blocking all renewables to market. Onshore wind and solar are already cheaper than new build gas, and we have seen huge cost reductions happening in offshore wind, energy from waste and biomass. These are the technologies of the future and the Government should be backing them, not blocking their progress.

“The renewable power and heat sectors are urgently calling for clarity around how the Government intends to bring forward new capacity.”

Jayne Harrold, environmental tax leader, PwC:

“Introducing a tax on single use plastic packaging has the dual environmental benefit of reducing resource use and reducing waste disposal.  The key to the success of the measure will be in structuring the tax properly and setting it at the right rate to achieve the desired change of behaviour.

“A flat rate charge which is transparent and visible to consumers is a fairly blunt instrument, but easy for consumers to understand and can help drive conscious choices and change of behaviour.  

“A more sophisticated mechanism that taxed suppliers based on the weight of non-recyclable plastic packaging they put into the supply chain would potentially be more effective in promoting behaviour in line with the waste hierarchy of reduce, reuse, recycle.  For example, a supplier could legitimately reduce their tax bill by reducing the weight of non-recyclable packaging used, and by replacement of non-recyclable materials.”

Mary Creagh MP, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee:

“The Government has finally woken up to the tide of plastic choking our countryside, rivers and marine life. My Committee’s inquiry into disposable coffee cups and plastic bottles has heard that 15 million bottles are landfilled, littered or incinerated every day, and that almost none of the 7 million takeaway coffee cups we use are recycled.

“The Chancellor’s promise to start a consultation on single-use plastics charges next year is welcome, but does nothing to tackle the rising tide of plastic in our oceans now.”

Sam Boileau, environmental consultant, Dentons:

Plastics entering the oceans come from multiple sources, including microbeads from cosmetics, fibres from clothing, discarded plastic and litter, and road drainage and domestic  and commercial effluent. 

“The call for evidence is likely to look at using tax or charges to address one component of this problem – the use of single use plastic items and the plastic waste which this generates.  A levy or charge on such items could have a significant effect, as did the introduction of the plastic bag levy, though is likely to have less impact than an outright ban on single use plastic items which some jurisdictions (e.g. France) are pursuing. 

“Amidst the regulatory uncertainty in the field of environmental law that has been caused by Brexit, this is perhaps an area of international significance where the UK government will feel it can take a lead.”

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London: 

“The measures announced to clean up our polluted air are totally inadequate – and no action to introduce a desperately needed diesel scrappage fund. The Government today committed just £220m for a national pot to improve air quality while the capital alone requires £515m just for a vehicle scrappage fund. It is a kick in the teeth of Londoners who deserve the right to breathe clean air and are encouraged by the Government to buy more polluting vehicles.”

Paul Taylor, chief executive, FCC Environment:

“The Chancellor’s commitment to tackling both waste crime and plastic pollution are welcome moves, and represent an important step forward in the debate over waste policy.

“However, if we are to make the UK one of the most resource productive countries in the world, we would have liked to see more ambitious policy announcements. It is disappointing, for example, that we did not see reference to incentivising re-use, which would underline our push towards UK self-sufficiency. Embedding a ‘reuse culture’ within communities is absolutely essential if we are to encourage behavioural change in relation to waste.

“We would also liked to have a seen a commitment by Government to invest in the UK’s domestic waste infrastructure. Currently, UK waste management companies are paying to export waste out of our country which other countries utilise as fuel, powering local homes and businesses. This is simply not a sustainable model. Boosting the UK’s infrastructure will not only mean that we can manage our waste more efficiently, but also better safeguard the UK’s long-term energy security.”

Dr Colin Church, chief executive, CIWM:

“There is still a long way to go, but the Chancellor’s words sends a clear signal to businesses and consumers that plastic waste is under the spotlight,” says Dr Church. “Discarded plastic items in particular have become a ubiquitous and unwelcome symbol of the damage that careless consumerism has on the environment.

“With the tide of public opinion turning because of issues such as marine plastic pollution, it is encouraging to see that the government is willing to act.”

David Palmer-Jones, chief executive, SUEZ recycling and recovery UK:


“We welcome any Government initiative which seeks to drive down the use of single-use plastics in favour of more sustainable, recyclable, forms of packaging and products. This is a vital step towards achieving  a more resource-efficient society and encouraging producers to take more responsibility.”

Neil Parish MP, Chair, EFRA Committee:

“Diesel cars contribute significantly to the dangerous levels of pollution experienced throughout the UK, but many people bought them in good faith. The Government’s announcement that it will make further attempts to tackle the use of diesel vehicles is welcome, and it must be matched by a legislative drive to encourage greener transportation including through support for low emission vehicles.

“It should also, where possible, not disadvantage those currently using diesels who are not in the position to change their vehicle in the short term.”  

Delphine Clement, mobility segment leader EMEA, Eaton:

“The Chancellor’s commitment to deliver on emission reductions by backing electric vehicles and boosting purchases of clean fuel cars is hugely welcome – albeit long overdue. A lack of charging infrastructure has been a major barrier to adoption so far but supporting investment in this space will spur on the UK’s shift to electric vehicles.

“If combined with the development of a smart grid, this could go a long way to overhauling the transport sector in the UK, leading to a cleaner, greener Britain. It will be a key step if we are to achieve the clearly set out emission reduction targets.”

Jonathan Hampson, general manager, Zipcar UK:

“At Zipcar we welcome the Chancellor’s backing for multi-million pound investment in electric vehicle infrastructure and cleaner vehicles. We believe that if our cities are to meet their future challenges cars are going to have to be electric but they also must be shared. Zipcar has already made significant strides towards this future with over 175,000 Londoners now using our service and having access to a fleet of 2,500 shared vehicles.

“Whilst a number of these are electric, we want to go further but require infrastructure to keep pace. We really hope that the announcement today will accelerate this and we look forward to working with UK Government and infrastructure providers to grasp the opportunity that this Budget provides.”  

Aaron Kiely, air pollution campaigner, Friends of the Earth:

“Removing the tax incentives for diesel cars is a welcome move given how bad diesels are for our health. But this alone is not enough to deliver clean air across the country fairly. The Government must introduce a diesel scrappage scheme to help drivers who bought diesels in good faith switch to cleaner transport – in part funded by manufacturers. It’s outrageous that in 21st century Britain, there are children growing up with smaller lungs because of the filthy air they’re breathing.”

Dr Sam Gardner, acting head of policy, WWF Scotland:

“It seems strikingly contradictory that only days after attending the UN climate conference in Bonn, the UK Government has announced a new way to encourage the exploration of more fossil fuels from the North Sea.  While it’s true that the oil and gas industry will continue to be a major contributor to our economy for some time, now is the time to be setting out a clear plan to sensibly transition away from dirty fossil fuels.

“We need to see a just transition that enables us to harness the engineering skills currently deployed in the North Sea and apply them to supporting a range of cleaner forms of energy production.”

Sasha Stashwick, senior advocate, Natural Resources Defense Council:

“It was encouraging to hear the Chancellor place importance on improving air quality in the UK during the Autumn Budget today but the UK’s continued support of biomass energy is worrying and disappointing and undermines that aim. As a leading nation in the fight against climate change, the UK should be shifting definitively towards truly clean and cost-effective renewable energy sources like solar and wind and away from cutting trees to burn in old coal plants.

“Policies that erroneously treat biomass as ‘carbon neutral’ are increasing carbon and air pollution, threatening ecologically valuable forests, and distorting the market for traditional wood products, increasing the price of things like wood panels critical to solving the UK’s affordable housing crisis.”

Gareth Dunsmore, electric vehicle director, Nissan Europe:

“A £400m investment to boost the deployment of EV charge points is a welcome next step in further developing UK electric car infrastructure, as increasing numbers of consumers look to embrace electric vehicles. Nissan has already invested in Highway Quick Chargers, home/office charging solutions and is committed to establishing a customer charging network throughout the UK and across Europe.”

Jacob Hayler, executive director, ESA:

“The Chancellor has listened to the industry’s calls to toughen the fight against waste crime, and the extra £30 million funding provided to the Environment Agency to help stamp out illegal activity in the sector is highly welcome. This will strengthen the industry’s efforts to boost recycling and resource productivity.

We are also pleased that the Government will consult on how to use tax measures and charges to reduce single-use plastics waste. By making producers more responsible for the end of life of their plastic products, eco-design will be properly rewarded and the pressure on local authorities’ budgets will be relieved.”

Sumen Rannie, commercial director, SodaStream UK:

“We appreciate the government’s acknowledgement of the devastating single-use plastic crisis that our planet is facing, but a tax isn’t going to solve the issue. It won’t deter people from buying and disposing of plastic, not en masse anyway. Yes, the plastic bag ‘tax’ has proven to be a huge success with 85% fewer bags being used within a year of the charge being introduced, but consumers were offered a simple alternative here, reuse what they have.

“This won’t be so simple for containers, cutlery and wrap. To truly drive the immediate change that our parks, rivers, oceans and wildlife desperately need, we need clear alternatives to prevent the use of single-plastic.”

Dr Jonathan Marshall, energy analyst, Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU):

“Despite warm words from the dispatch box, Philip Hammond has failed to deliver on low carbon energy. Keeping the carbon price floor unchanged was the bare minimum expected before the Budget, and does not make up for the hat-trick of freezing new low-carbon support, throwing North Sea oil and gas another lifeline, and shying away from fuel duty changes that would both encourage lower-carbon transport and tackle the air pollution crisis.

“Failing to consider measures to cut energy waste in new houses could also be costly, adding hundreds of pounds to energy bills of those affected and making it more difficult to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels for heating and powering our homes. All in all, it suggests that the recognition that green growth is good for UK Plc, clearly on display with the launch of the Clean Growth Strategy, has failed to permeate through to the Treasury – surely a missed opportunity as the Government looks to make the country fit for the future post-Brexit.”

John Sauven, chief executive, Greenpeace:

“Despite the Chancellor’s pride in the UK’s climate leadership, hidden away in the unannounced text of the budget, he quietly revealed this was one of the least green budgets ever, because there will be no new money for renewables until at least 2025. This is the death knell for new renewable energy like tidal, wave and geothermal technology despite the huge economic opportunities they could bring.

“Instead, his Budget focused on propping up dirty, incumbent industries of the past, from North Sea oil and gas, to polluting diesel cars. The Chancellor’s increase to Vehicle Excise Duty, while making the right noises, was far too weak to shift the market away from polluting diesel vehicles and reduce toxic air pollution that is harming our nation’s health.

“On the natural environment, the Chancellor has shown more support for tackling single use plastics that are harming our oceans. His call for evidence should be followed by swift action in the new year.”

Gareth Redmond-King, head of energy and climate, WWF:

“This Budget shows confusion at the heart of the UK Government. Whilst support for electric vehicles and promising to tackle the scourge of single use plastics is very much to be welcomed, other measures point in the opposite direction. Most striking is the lack of any new money for renewables until 2025 whilst giving fossil fuels an easy ride by slashing taxes for North Sea Oil and Gas, and freezing the fuel duty for diesel and petrol cars. This Budget misses the mark and does not secure the future of our planet that the Chancellor sets out to do.”

Nick Molho, executive director, Aldersgate Group:

“The Chancellor is right that we cannot build an economy fit for the future unless we ensure our planet has a future. As well as aiming to be a world leader in tackling plastic pollution, it was good to hear further support for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, and in ensuring the UK has the skills required to benefit from the job opportunities of the future.
“However, the lack of clarity and progress on the future of low carbon power investments and energy efficiency standards in new buildings is disappointing. To reduce power sector emissions cost-effectively and continue to grow renewable energy supply chains, the UK needs a policy environment that allows it to deploy mature low-carbon technologies such as onshore wind without subsidy, increase its ambition on offshore wind in the 2020s and keep the door open to improvements in new technologies. The announcement that there will be no new low carbon electricity levies until 2025 mustn’t get in the way of that.”

Autumn Budget: Live blog for green business

George Ogleby

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