DEFRA funding to increase to £2.9 billion in next three years, and an extra £38 million for renewables

In order to pay for the implementation of the Curry Report to promote sustainable farming, to improve Britain’s flood defences and to manage waste appropriately, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is awarding the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) an additional 2.7% rise per year after inflation to reach £2.9 billion by 2005/06. The Chancellor has also announced that renewable energy is to receive an additional £38 million.

“One of the greatest challenges to our future is to protect and safeguard our environment through sustainable development and to advance towards our 2010 targets – 20% less carbon dioxide emissions, 10% of electricity from renewable sources – the Spending Review will, in addition to financing the £100 million fund for the development of renewable technologies, provide in 2005/06 an additional £38 million for sustainable energy initiatives,” said Chancellor Gordon Brown in his Spending Review speech to the House of Commons on 15 July.

Additional resources are also being given to local authorities to address the growth in municipal waste and to aid the shift away from disposal to landfill, as well as assisting disposal of fridges and hazardous waste, says DEFRA. The additional funding will be part of a package of reform following a report by the Performance and Innovation Unit due to be published in the autumn.

By paying off a large chunk of the national debt last year, the UK is saving £20 billion per year in debt interest payments, and with the UK having an unemployment rate lower than the rest of Europe, the US and Japan, the country is also saving £10 billion per year on payments to the unemployed. These factors have contributed to the increased amount of money available for spending on public services, said Brown.

In general, spending will increase from £240 billion this year to £263 billion next year, and will gradually rise to £301 billion by 2005/06, said the Chancellor.

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Margaret Beckett welcomed the new money for sustainable farming. “I also welcome the additional funding for dealing with the major challenge of municipal waste growth, with financial decisions to be taken once the Performance and Innovation Unit has concluded its review of waste policy in the autumn, and for flood and coastal defence, allowing us to accelerate our programme of defence building in parallel with reform of administration and funding.”

DEFRA has been consulting on the future direction of the Environment Agency (see related story). In response, the Environment Industries’ Commission stated that the Agency must be given more funding to carry out additional duties if the organisation was not to become overwhelmed. In February the Environment Agency, itself, called for an additional £200 million in order to ensure adequate protection against flooding (see related story).

The Treasury has also decided to push for greater action towards sustainable development. In November, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Andrew Smith, asked government departments to ensure that sustainable development issues were considered and reflected in their bids for the spending review. According to the Treasury, the departments responded, with the result that for the first time ever each government department produced a sustainable development report, identifying the social, economic and environmental implications of their work. The Treasury also provided guidance on how to incorporate sustainable development into their work.

“Sustainable development is a challenge for us all and cannot be delivered by governments alone,” said Chief Secretary to the Treasury Paul Boateng. “But this Government recognises the importance of showing leadership on sustainable development, at home and internationally.”

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