After the initial “harumph” and bluster on Budget day, now the dust has settled a little and we’ve got over the initial bludgeoning of “this is what it means” noise from people using their knee jerk to write a media statement, what messages were there for sustainability professionals and the infrastructure space?
National Infrastructure Commission funding was confirmed for northern transport connections, giving the green light to High Speed 3 with £300m earmarked; Crossrail 2 was also confirmed with £80m to “help fund development”; meanwhile, there’s £50m for energy storage innovation.
George Osborne also wrote to Lord Adonis, interim chair of the Commission, setting out two more issues for the Commission to work on: the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge “intensive knowledge cluster” with the aim of maximising its potential whilst protecting its “high quality environment”; and world leading 5G deployment.
Mandatory reporting of Greenhouse Gas emissions by listed companies has been retained, which was strongly supported by business and investors following the Paris climate summit, which emphasised improved disclosure on financial risks linked to climate change.
Renewables support was ring-fenced at up to £730m with a focus on offshore wind and “less established” renewable-energy technologies, estimated to support c. 4GW of new projects.
Landfill Communities Fund saved with the retention of the third party funding option for the 10% contribution from operators. This means an important and valuable source of funding for community projects within ten miles of a landfill site (virtually everywhere) will continue to function and offer the potential to match millions of pounds worth of public, charitable and Lottery funding. There will also be a consultation on the landfill tax later this year.
Flood defence funding of £700m was announced (or was that re-announced…?) to “tackle” the UK’s number one threat from climate change.
Environmental taxation was amended with the carbon reduction commitment (CRC) scrapped and replaced with an increased rate of climate change levy (CCL) from April 2019, which should “greatly reduce the administration and compliance burden placed on many businesses that fall within the carbon reduction commitment scheme” according to PwC.
There are other things, but these stood out for different reasons.
But what about the Chancellor’s statement that “Doing the right thing for the next generation is what the government and this budget is about… I am not prepared to look back at my time here in this parliament, doing this job and say to my children’s generation: I’m sorry. We knew there was a problem… but we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing.”
Many commentators have reflected on the irony of Osborne’s statement, repeated more than once. What about climate change? Mitigation as well as adaptation, natural capital as well as economic investment, energy efficiency as well as gas and oil exploration, supporting supply chain innovation, investment and global exports from the UK’s low-carbon sector which contributes £122bn to the UK economy?
Some of these issues may well rise up the agenda over the next 18 months as business responds to the Paris agreement and the now seemingly incontrovertible truth that humanity’s impact on climate is harming, well, humanity. Here, there and everywhere else.