An ambitious Energy White Paper in December last year has not been followed up with very much concrete policy, culminating in the 2021 Budget.
Businesses are doing their part. Barely a week goes by without an announcement from a blue chip company about their plans to reach net zero and reducing impact on the planet is no longer just a moral argument. An Energy White Paper in December last year has been followed, but not with very much, culminating in the 2021 Budget. No one will question that combatting the economic impact of coronavirus has to be the priority, but any detail about the UK’s plans to decarbonise the economy were strangely absent. In fact, a lot of the actual measures did the opposite.
The Conservatives have not increased fuel duty since they came to power in 2010, and this year proved no exception. Freezing the duty costs the Treasury £12 billion per annum and encourages vehicle use, which is responsible for 22% of the UK’s annual emissions. A plan to cut domestic air passenger duty (APD) will encourage people to fly rather than take the train. Air travel is responsible for 6% of the UK’s carbon emissions and a cut in APD “beggars belief” according to Friends of the Earth.
The Budget contained no new measures for improving the energy efficiency of the built environment, a sector responsible for 40% of the UK’s carbon footprint. And what about the proposed Cumbria coal mine, what would be the first deep coal mine in the UK since 1987?
All of this matters because to stand a chance of meeting the carbon reduction targets we need every person and every business to change their behaviour – and quickly. The UK is decarbonising at the fastest rate among G20 economies, down an impressive 40% on 1990 levels. It has also recently set an ambitious target for a reduction of at least 68% by 2030, on the route to net zero by 2050. To stand any hope of hitting these targets, we ALL need to take action.
The government has missed an important opportunity to embrace the “polluter pays” principle to generate additional, and much-needed, tax.
The immediate pressures of the Covid-19 crisis must be addressed and with the G7 Summit in Cornwall in June and COP26 in November, the UK has a real opportunity to showcase its achievements and lead the world in the transition to net zero. Doing so will drive innovation, create jobs of the future and help position “Global Britain” post-Brexit.
Harry Shackleton is a partner at Inflect Partners, a strategic communications and business transformation consultancy.
Find out more at www.inflect.co.uk