Chancellor vows to prioritise the environment as Budget date set

Announced this morning (7 January) during Javid’s visit to Manchester, the Government claims that the next Budget – its first since the 2050 net-zero target was enshrined in law – will prioritise environmental spending alongside investment in public services.

Specific details regarding where new funding will be invested are sparse at present, but emissions-related measures given significant weight in the Conservative Party’s manifesto include carbon capture and storage (CCS), hydrogen, nuclear power and energy efficiency measures for the built environment.

The manifesto additionally included pledges to invest in domestic plastic recycling infrastructure and end exports to developing nations; improve flood defences and boost air quality.

“With this Budget we will unleash Britain’s potential – uniting our great country, opening a new chapter for our economy and ushering in a decade of renewal,” Javid said as he announced the Budget date.

Javid’s predecessor Philip Hammond moved the Budget from the spring to the autumn in 2019, but the date was pushed back once again after a December general election was agreed.

Reports suggest that Javid will use the Budget announcement to detail not only new spending, but a shake-up for his department.

He is expected to announce the creation of a new task force in order to modernise and optimise the Government’s tax and spending, and to better even out the way funding is allocated between UK regions. Environmental research has repeatedly suggested that although the north of England is primed to lead the nation’s low-carbon transition, a lack of Government support for infrastructure and skills has hampered progress.

The announcement of the Budget date comes shortly after Downing Street confirmed that Javid has been given special dispensation to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos this month, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s initial decision to ban all Ministers from the event in light of the 31 January Brexit deadline. A No 10 spokesman told the Financial Times: “It was decided that this was the appropriate level of representation”. 

A year in review

Javid delivered his first solo speech as Exchequer in the House of Commons in September 2019, outlining the September Spending Round.

In regards to the green economy, the Round included £30m for decarbonising infrastructure; £30m for measures to tackle air pollution in towns and cities; £200m to “transform” bus services to lower carbon emissions and implement new technologies; and  £30m for terrestrial and marine biodiversity measures.

These measures were widely branded as too little, too late, by key figures in the environmental movement.

Prior to this spending round, the Government’s last major spending announcement was the Spring Statement 2019. 13 March saw Javid’s predecessor Philip Hammond outline a number of green investment measures, including a major global review into the economic value of biodiversity, including the financial risks of its decline and rewards of its stewardship.

Then, late last year, the Government announced its review into the economic impact of net-zero. HM Treasury minister Simon Clarke, who is leading the review, told edie that its purpose is “not to say [the Government] will do  ‘x, y and z’ specifically,” but to “look at the big picture” and determine the course of investment over the next three decades.

Sarah George

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