Government must do more to deliver on its environmental objectives

25th November 2015

Further to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement today and ahead of the publication of the Committee on Climate Change’s advice on the Fifth Carbon Budget tomorrow, the Aldersgate Group said that it was unlikely the Autumn Statement had done enough to allow the government to meet its environmental objectives effectively.

Recognising the difficult challenge faced by government in addressing the deficit, the Aldersgate Group welcomed the government’s decision to increase climate finance, maintain support for the purchase of low emission vehicles, commit to an increase in funding on low carbon heat and protect the budget of the FCO, a department which performs important functions in climate change diplomacy and in setting up trade opportunities for UK businesses.

However, it was unclear how the government’s proposal to increase funding for low carbon heat whilst saving £700m would help deliver the increase in low carbon heat required by the UK’s carbon budgets. The proposal to insulate one million homes during the course of this Parliament also amounts to a significant drop compared to the number of homes which took on energy efficiency measures during the course of the last Parliament.

Nick Molho, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group said: “Without rapid investment in energy efficiency and low carbon heat at scale, it is difficult to see how the UK will meet its Fourth Carbon Budget at least cost and on time. The government needs to do much more to improve the energy efficiency of our building stock and explain how its new proposals will deliver the increase in low carbon heat that the Committee on Climate Change has been calling for. It is also unclear how the government intends to allow further investment in cost-effective renewable electricity projects outside of the offshore wind auctions announced last week.”

The Aldersgate Group however welcomed the Government’s increased focus on apprenticeships and highlighted that a comprehensive strategy was needed to ensure the UK’s workforce was equipped to benefit from the employment opportunities that the transition to a low carbon economy had to offer. This will be the subject of a major Aldersgate Group event in Parliament next week.

Referring to the spending cuts of 15% at DEFRA at 22% at DECC in particular, Nick Molho said:

“Government departments such as DEFRA and its regulatory agencies provide important – and often overlooked – services that are key to the effective functioning of our economy. These include providing access to high quality natural resources such as water and interpreting UK and EU environmental legislation in a way that is pragmatic and can support business innovation. The implementation of the different settlement plans must ensure that these government departments and their regulatory agencies have sufficient resources to continue providing these services effectively.” 

Pointing to the fact that businesses were awaiting clear policy signals to increase investments in the UK’s natural capital, Nick Molho added:

“As the Aldersgate Group highlighted in its report last week, the government has the opportunity to drive greater levels of private investment in improving the state of the UK’s natural assets in a way that would support the competitiveness of the UK economy and wouldn’t jeopardise its objective of tackling the deficit. Doing this requires greater policy co-ordination between government departments to support projects that are mutually beneficial and helping support the financing of natural capital projects by making existing subsidy schemes more efficient and developing markets for ecosystem services.”