Fiddling the margins or a powerful signal? The green economy reacts to the Spring Statement

Chancellor Philip Hammond has today (13 March) unveiled new measures to champion biodiversity and drive resilience in the UK's housing stock as part of his Spring Statement, but reactions suggest the Government is still moving too slowly.

Fiddling the margins or a powerful signal? The green economy reacts to the Spring Statement

Biodiversity was the big talking point from the Spring Statement

As well as pledges to exempt PhD-level roles from the visa caps and offer free sanitary products to colleges, the Spring Statement includes a major global review into the economic value of biodiversity, including the financial risks of its decline and rewards of its stewardship.

A consultation into the Business Energy Efficiency Scheme laid out in the 2018 Autumn Budget was also confirmed by Hammond and is due to launch today. A Future Homes Standard will also be launched by 2025 to ensure that new builds are fitted with low-carbon heating and “world-leading” levels of energy efficiency.

Other commitments in the statement include: advancing the decarbonisation of gas supplies by increasing the proportion of green gas in the grid and creating zero-carbon travel options through a call for evidence on Offsetting Transport Emissions requirements.

Considering the main budget announcements have moved to Autumn, the Spring Statement gave the green economy a fair few announcements to digest. But how have organisations responded? edie has pulled together some of the notable comments from respected green groups and commentators below.

Green economy reaction

MP from the Conservative Environment Network (CEN) Richard Benyon said:

“In the week that we celebrate Commonwealth Day it’s right that we acknowledge the wealth of marine life in our Overseas Territories. Ascension Island is a prime example of this, and so I’m delighted that we will be supporting the Island council with funding to protect their waters. CEN MPs spoke to the Environment Secretary about this vital habitat, and the amazing marine creatures that call it home, so it’s great to see this funding announced today.”

Zac Goldsmith MP said:

“Not everyone has heard of Ascension Island, but it is a biodiversity hotspot which deserves protection. I am delighted that the Government listened to our campaign and will now protect Ascension’s waters in full. As custodians of one of the largest marine estates in the world, we have a duty to defend our oceans from the huge threats of overfishing and climate change – this is an important step to make that happen.”

Antoinette Sandbach MP said:

“High energy efficiency standards are vital not only to ensure that everyone has a warm place to live, but also to reduce our carbon footprint. We need to make sure that every home, new or old, is fit for the future, and today’s announcement on green gas has shown the Government takes this task seriously. I’ve been working to raise awareness of this issue in Parliament and to my constituents, and we now need to make sure these measures are accessible and affordable to all homeowners.”

Bright Blue’s director Ryan Shorthouse said:

“The Government has rightly adopted Bright Blue’s policy of introducing an obligation on gas suppliers to ensure a certain proportion of green gas is in the grid. The detail is to come, but a new low carbon gas obligation on gas suppliers should be introduced by Ofgem in the next price control framework from April 2021.”

 “This low-carbon obligation should include a requirement for gas suppliers to deliver a steadily increasing proportion of low carbon gases – which includes biomethane, bioSNG and hydrogen – to the network. The proportion of low carbon gas injected into the gas network, and the trajectory for this over time, should be consistent with meeting the UK’s current and likely greenhouse gas emissions reduction target.”

The Ground Source Heat Pump Association’s chairman Bean Beanland said:

“The GSHPA welcomes the Chancellor’s announcement in his Spring Statement to end fossil fuel heating in all new homes from 2025. The ground source heat pump industry is ready to meet the challenge with a proven and efficient technology that can deliver to homeowners and tenants the lowest operating cost and carbon solution. 

“We look forward to working with the Government and others to make this a reality by contributing to the training and standards that will be required to ensure the strongest possible consumer confidence and protection in this growing market.”

Abundance Investment’s co-founder Bruce Davis said:

“Our political weather may well be blowing a gale just now, but it is welcome to see the chancellor maintaining an eye on the long term investment climate we need to drive the economic transition to a low carbon world at the same time as finding innovative ways to ensure such development does not cost the environment. In particular we would welcome the research into the link between biodiversity and economic growth which is a good first step to moving away from the idea that costs in terms of our natural resources are ‘external’ to our economic balance sheet.”

Glen Dimplex Heating and Ventilation’s chief executive Neil Stewart said:

“The introduction of the Future Homes Standard for new builds is another positive move towards achieving net zero carbon dwellings in the future and ensuring UK homes benefit now from being highly efficient. The introduction of this new standard is in response to a legal commitment to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. 

“Along with other legal requirements, such as carbon budgets, we are likely to see an increase of regulatory measures in the industry, aimed at encouraging homes which are fit for the future. As this could cause radical change for construction, industry bodies have been spending time analysing what this actually means and where changes need to happen to our current traditional techniques and processes.” 

Friends of the Earth’s head of political affairs, Dave Timms said: 

“Instead of putting climate change at the heart of economic policy-making, the Chancellor is merely fiddling in the margins while the planet burns. The nation’s children are calling out for tough action to cut emissions, Mr Hammond must listen harder to the lesson they’re teaching him.
“With the government enthusiastically backing more runways, more roads and fracking, it’s little wonder the UK is likely to miss future climate targets.”

Impact investor tickr’s co-founder Tom McGillycuddy, said:

“Environmental measures announced today are a drop in the ocean. The Government needs to go much further, quicker. In order to make a meaningful difference quickly, we are calling for two things: first, a carbon tax needs to be introduced in the UK and globally. By reducing the power of the most carbon intensive industries, we will stimulate rapid growth of sustainable alternatives. Secondly, private companies and individuals need to exercise their ability to mobilise much faster than the state and do their part in cutting our carbon footprint.

“There are many companies already playing an active part in reducing omissions and it’s imperative that their efforts are supported. More retail investment into these businesses is absolutely vital in achieving this.”

The Energy Networks Association chief executive David Smith said:

“This is a welcome move by Government to help tackle one of the biggest decarbonisation challenges we all face. Britain’s gas networks provide the public with large quantities of energy to heat their homes at the times when they need it the most, so it’s vital that we continue to decarbonise the gas we all use so we can continue to meet that need while meeting our climate change obligations.”

Suez Recycling and Recovery’s chief executive David Palmer-Jones said:

The Chancellor’s efforts to improve biodiversity are all linked to an increasingly joined up strategy, across government departments, to introduce regulations that incentivise businesses and consumers to move towards a more sustainable economy.

“The latest moves from Treasury are all linked to the government’s desire to place Britain among the world leaders for sustainability and eradicating waste. Revenues raised to tackle environmental issues should be used to enable further investment towards the infrastructure needed to underpin a circular economy, and address among other matters single use plastics, waste and litter.”

WWF’s executive director of science and conservation Mike Barrett said:

“The Chancellor has sent a powerful signal that our future economic prosperity depends on the fate of the natural world. It is a massive step forward to see the environment so firmly on the economic agenda, and there is now huge potential for the UK government to show global leadership.

“If our precious natural world is to stand a chance of recovery, the Government now needs to underpin these commitments with real action – not least through delivering an ambitious Environment Act that addresses our global environmental footprint.”

The Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association’s chief executive Charlotte Morton said:

“The UK’s green gas industry strongly welcomes the government’s commitment to increasing the proportion of green gas in the grid in order to decarbonise the UK’s heat supply, and we look forward to more detail on this in the promised consultation as soon as possible.

“As the Chancellor rightly said in his statement, we need to reduce our dependence on burning natural gas for heating our homes in order to meet our climate targets, and the only way we can do this whilst making use of the existing gas grid is to increase the amount of green gas in the grid.”

London Assembly Environment Committee’s chair Caroline Russell said:

 “We welcome the move towards new homes that do not rely on fossil fuels. If we are to challenge the impact of this climate emergency then the Government needs to lead the way with the toughest standards.  

“However, the measure does not go nearly far enough. We need to confront the homes in the capital that do not meet even the most basic energy efficiency requirements as well as those which are failing to keep pace with modern ways of living.”

PwC’s environmental tax leader Jayne Harrold said:

“There is to be support for small and medium-sized business in improving their energy efficiency, reducing their emissions and their energy bills, which is good news for all and a welcome helping hand for small businesses.

“The call for evidence on greening the gas grid is particularly welcome. There’s been a growing market in green gas being injected into the grid for a number of years. The country is currently gas dependent so reducing the carbon impact of the gas grid is an effective way of reducing emissions using existing infrastructure. One way in which the Chancellor could help to tip the balance on the economics of green gas is to introduce a climate change levy exemption for green gas consumption, much like the old renewable electricity exemption which was withdrawn in 2015.” 

The Renewable Energy Association’s policy and external affairs director James Court said:

“It is encouraging to see the Chancellor reaffirm the Government’s commitments to tackling climate change and delivering clean growth, and that this is compatible with growing the economy. The challenge of decarbonising our heating system has acted as a barrier to both meeting legally binding climate targets and further investment in renewables.

“While more certainty is needed for the current dedicated renewable heat scheme (the RHI), the introduction of a Future Homes Standard has the potential to help remove some of the uncertainty surrounding the path to decarbonising heat, ensuring a clear plan for clean and cost-effective heating.”

edie staff

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