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Mini-budget misses opportunity to prioritise environmental commitments, say critics

This morning Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced the government’s mini-budget and critics believe ministers have missed a prime opportunity to prioritise the environment.

The government has committed to a range of huge tax cuts, including cutting income tax to 19% from April 2023, abolishing the 45% higher rate of income tax and cancelling the planned rise from 19% to 25% in corporation tax.

Rule on bankers’ bonuses have also been scrapped, stamp duty will be cut, so none is paid on first £250,000 of property’s value and an energy package of around £60bn has been set out.

But it is the proposed planning reforms which have environmentalists worried, as Mr Kwarteng said planning rules would be relaxed to free up more land and legislation would be brought forward to dispose of EU regulations.

landscape photography of Big Ben under white sky

Philippa Spence, MD of environmental consultancy Ramboll UK, said: ‘There was a shadow over the good news of the generous energy support packages announced by Kwasi Kwarteng today for those concerned about the UK’s environment.

‘The commitment to reform the planning process risks unwinding key environmental protections unless these are retained. The planning system does need reform, but not at the cost of our environment, already one of the most biodiversity depleted in Europe. The government must seek to achieve efficiency and environmental enhancement simultaneously.’

Additionally, Ms Spence said the government had failed to incorporate a drive in renewable energy and energy efficiency in their plan.

Recent research by the University of Oxford has shown that decarbonisation and moving towards renewables would save the world $12 trillion.

Ms Spence said: ‘Kwasi Kwarteng promised to “unleash the power of the private sector” and enable growth through a number of measures including tax cuts. To truly unleash the potential of industries supporting the green energy transition will also require clear policy signals that this is a long-term commitment, such as enabling onshore wind rather than resurrecting fracking. We have one of the best green energy opportunities globally and there is no doubt that with the right support, it will generate significant growth.’

This sentiment was echoed by Friends of the Earth’s Head of Policy, Mike Childs, who spoke yesterday ahead of the Chancellors’ announcement.

He said the mini-budget was ‘yet another lost opportunity’ to insulate UK homes, scale up cheap renewables and permanently reduce energy bills.

‘What’s also deeply worrying are plans to weaken environmental safeguards,’ he said. ‘The Chancellor is treating economic growth and environmental protection as mutually exclusive, but they’re not. It’s this tired thinking that is driving the energy, climate and ecological crises we’re facing. We really needed this budget to ease the cost of living emergency, restore nature and cut the emissions that cause climate change, but it totally fails on all counts.’

Photo by Ugur Akdemir

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