The environment was always going to be high on the agenda as interested parties waited to discover if the government would live up to its former claim to be one of the ‘greenest governments ever’.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change suffered an overall annual cut in budget of 5% but announcements on the future funding for a Green Bank and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) were not all bad.

Secretary for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, succeeded in securing £1 billion for carbon capture technology, although this was half the amount he had bid for.

That sum was matched for investment in a Green Bank. While this is seen as something of a victory, Greenpeace expressed disappointment, saying that the £1bn fell short of the amount needed.

Greenpeace executive director, John Sauven, said: “A poorly financed fund is not a green bank. It doesn’t have the financial clout, or the independence to do the job, and will end up as nothing more than an ill-equipped quango.

“So if this government wants to live up to its own billing as the greenest ever, this bank must be independent and properly financed.

“Anything less will dash hopes of a new green economy for Britain, and our chances of tackling climate change and energy security.”

Businesses have also joined the criticism. SmartestEnergy’s vice president retail, Jo Butlin, called the news “hugely disappointing”, while Tarmac’s head of sustainability, Dr Martyn Kenny feared the result would be a “cut price” Green Investment Bank that “will not provide the catalyst the UK needs to make the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Other announcements included a £200 million funding for wind power development. Chancellor George Osbourne expressed support for low-carbon energy.

He said: “Research and technological innovation will also help us with one of the greatest scientific challenges of our times – climate change – and it will support new jobs in low-carbon industries.

“So today, even in these straightened times…we will also invest over £200 million in the development of off-shore wind technology and manufacturing at port sites.”

New incentives were also announced, including a funded Renewable Heat Incentive to encourage home energy efficiency with no upfront cost to homeowners but this also meant a phasing out of the Warm Front programme.

Environmental groups will digest the news and reflect on what this means in the face of huge cuts for welfare, councils and the police, with a total of £81 billion cut from public spending.

Alison Brown

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