In today’s Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced plans to incentivise cleaner transport, introduce a plastic tax, and increase spending for carbon capture technology, but environmental campaigners have criticised it for being a ‘missed opportunity.’
Opening with a warning of how the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak is likely to affect the UK’s economy, Mr Sunak said he expects a ‘temporary disruption’ to the economy which will have a ‘significant impact’.
The Chancellor has announced plans to incentivise cleaner forms of transport by increasing taxes on polluting vehicles. He said that the government will create a formula to calculate the carbon cost per gram. For example, a car that emits 100g/km of carbon could be subject to a tax liability of £125.
In order to further incentivise low-emission vehicles, the government will also spend £500m on the rollout of new rapid vehicle charging hubs.
But as expected, there was a focus in the Budget on infrastructure spending, with roads set to be a major beneficiary of the new government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.
Mr Sunak announced that £27bn will be spent on UK roads over the next five years, which he hailed as an ‘unprecedented investment in urban transport.’
It is worth noting, however, that his predecessor Sajid Javid already rubber-stamped a £29bn spend on roads and motorways in last Autumn’s Spending Review.
Friends of the Earth head of policy Mike Childs criticised this move, he said: ‘By promising 4,000 miles of new roads, the Chancellor has shown that his priorities are not the environment. This Budget will wreck the countryside with new roads, leaving Britain choking on filthy air and further fuel the climate crisis.’
Another focus of the budget was on plastic pollution, the Chancellor announced plans to introduce a plastic tax from April 2022.
This will charge manufacturers and importers £200 per tonne for packaging that is made with less than 30% recycled plastic.
Rob Morgan, investment analyst at Charles Stanley Direct called the tax a ‘step in the right direction.’
He said: ‘Government intervention is key, as demonstrated by the plastic bag campaign where more than half (56%) say they are aware of it, and 15% say they have subsequently changed their behaviour as result.’
The UK has seen intense flooding over the past few months, and with climate change expected to make this worse, the Chancellor announced plans to increase funding for flood defences. £120m has been made available immediately to repair defences that have been damaged so far this year.
To support the areas that have been repeatedly damaged by flooding the government will also provide £200m of funding directly to local communities to build flood resilience.
Over the next five years, they also said they will plant 30,000 hectares of trees, an area that is larger than the whole of Birmingham.
Tanya Steele, chief executive of WWF said: ‘The Chancellor’s commitment to restoring nature and the initial spending announcements on how he plans to achieve it are a positive step forward, but we’re relying on the upcoming spending review to deliver more if we are to achieve net-zero and restore nature.’
The chancellor also announced that funding will be made available for carbon capture technology, with £800m to be spent on two clusters of carbon storage technology by 2040.
Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, commented on the budget: ‘Far from “getting it done” for climate and nature, the Chancellor has completely missed the opportunity to address the climate emergency. Instead, by announcing £27bn for new roads, it seems he’s driving in the opposite direction.
‘This is just a fraction of what is needed to get the UK on track to deliver net-zero before COP26.
‘The Chancellor will only redeem himself by rapidly increasing spending on climate and nature to at least 5%, making our buildings highly efficient and significantly boosting public transport in the National Infrastructure Strategy and Spending Review later this year.’
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