The authoritative and independent Institute for Fiscal Studies summarised George Osborne’s 21st March Budget as a “hotchpotch of reforms (which) bears as many marks of political expediency as it does of strategic reform”. Although that remark was directed at the overall fiscal policy, it is equally applicable to the sustainability agenda.
The Chancellor said: "I also want to see investment in our world-leading energy sector, including renewables. Renewable energy will play a crucial part in the UK's energy mix". However, the budget largely lacks any real awareness of the need to reduce reliance on expensive fossil fuels, to increase investment in greener transport and to encourage renewables. Instead, it continues with a “predict and provide” approach to air transport and to roads. It persists with outdated energy technologies. And it offers no new encouragement to a low-carbon future.
Furthermore, postponing the start of the Green Investment Bank’s borrowing powers to 2015-2016 is a bellwether for the Government’s environmental policies and described by Tim Yeo MP (Conservative), chair of the backbench Energy and Climate Change Select Committee as “disappointing”.
Whilst we are waiting for the details of the Green Deal to come out, we would have felt more heartened had the Chancellor heard the calls for VAT to come off refurbishments for energy saving measures. LSx focus groups are clearly saying they are concerned that the government isn’t really behind the Green Deal, this budget could have done something here to address that.
There are few redeeming features, especially for London – support for Crossrail, HS2 and the Thames Tunnel.
Taken all together, though, this Budget is a missed opportunity.
Martin Pilgrim, Chairman
London Sustainability Exchange