Treasury told to end short-termism and ‘green-check’ decisions

The decision to scrap funding for carbon capture and storage (CCS) typifies the Treasury’s lack of long-term thinking, according to MPs.

A report by the environmental audit committee said the same failure to ‘green-check’ decisions could be found in its axing of the zero carbon homes policy.

By dropping CCS without any notice, the Treasury delayed its roll out and it could now cost an extra £30bn to meet 2050 carbon targets, the committee’s inquiry found.

MPs expressed similar concerns about the abolition of the zero carbon homes policy, a decision the report said had ‘surprised and in some cases angered many in the construction industry’ and would likely lead to higher costs to households and the economy in the shape of retrofitting.

‘Riding roughshod over departments’

‘The Treasury is highly influential and uniquely placed to ensure the whole of government works to promote sustainability,’ said committee chair Mary Creagh.

‘But we have seen considerable evidence that it fails to do this. The Treasury tends not to take full account of the long-term environmental costs and benefits of decisions which would reduce costs for taxpayers and consumers in the long run.

‘On the carbon capture and storage competition and zero carbon homes we saw the Treasury riding roughshod over departments, cancelling long-established environmental programmes at short notice with no consultation, costing businesses and the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds.

‘With a week to go until the next autumn statement, we hope our inquiry will be a wake-up call to the Treasury.’

The report called on the Treasury to ensure future spending reviews provide strong incentives for collaboration between departments on environmental matters.

It said fresh evidence on long-term environmental risks and benefits should be incorporated into its frameworks for assessing the value for money of government interventions.

By providing ‘publically available justifications for its decisions’ the Treasury would enhance transparency and accountability, said the report.

MPs also urged it to work with other departments whose policies affect the environment ‘to ensure the government’s new industrial strategies promote sustainability’.

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Austin Macauley

Austin Macauley

Editor, Environment Journal

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