Budget 2018: Environmental experts unimpressed by lack of action and detail

Philip Hammond has been highly-criticised for a budget which appears to be devoid of much detail when it comes to tackling air quality and an absence of leadership on clean growth at a time when environmental issues have never been highlighted more.

It’s just three weeks since the IPCC’s landmark report which underlined the urgent need to tackle climate change, yet environmental leaders have lambasted the government for a budget which is short on solutions to worldwide mounting issues.

Those responsible for leading the charge environmentally have expressed their disappointment in addressing pressing matters and seemingly missing opportunities for change.

Matthew Farrow, Environmental Industries Commission executive director, said while a proposal for a tax on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content is welcome, it is only a modest start and ministers could not lose sight other green issues.

“The environmental content of the budget was focused on plastics – it’s important that this issue does not suck up all the political airtime available for green issues,” he said. “There was a lack of action on air quality – the apparent lack of any announcement on ‘red diesel’ is a real missed opportunity, we urgently need to end the practice of construction machinery and transport refrigeration units being able to use untaxed diesel when low pollution alternatives are available.”

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), is highly critical of the lack of environmental action found in the budget, especially in the wake of the IPCC report. 

“This budget is notable by the absence of any substantial clean growth measures,” she said. “Indeed, a number of important policies have been hit, with the scrapping of Enhanced Capital Allowances, making it harder for companies to invest in energy efficiency improvements, and the chancellor signalling his intention to weaken Carbon Price Support. In the absence of leadership on clean growth in today’s budget, it is now more important than ever that businesses show real leadership in reducing emissions. The construction and property industry has a huge part to play; we urgently need to begin decarbonising our buildings on a path to net zero emissions.”

While Barny Evans, director of sustainable places, energy and waste at WSP, reiterated the need to ensure ways are found to replace single-use plastics.

“The issue of plastics pollution is important. We support the resistance to responses that aren’t properly considered which could be counter-productive,” Evans said. We know for example that simple changes can increase the recyclability of plastics and introducing tax on single-use plastic manufacturing and import is a step in the right direction. We welcome the opportunity to engage with the government and our clients to respond to the consultation on how the tax can work to give the best results.”

The Solar Trade Association (STA) has reacted by saying it saw no progress on reasonable industry requests for fair tax treatment and that barriers to the uptake of solar and storage in the UK, which put clean energy at a competitive disadvantage compared to fossil fuels, remain in place.

Chris Hewett, chief executive at the STA said: “Investment in renewable energy has plummeted in the UK and largely for want of fair tax and market treatment. The Chancellor has again missed a vital opportunity to do the right thing, not only by the planet and the thousands of people who want to support clean energy, but by simple fair market principles. This government claims to support clean, green technologies, but this rhetoric is far from being matched by even the most modest of actions.”

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