Chancellor’s autumn statement – he regards environment rules as a burden on the economy
The Chancellor’s autumn statement slammed green policies as a “burden” and a “ridiculous cost” to British businesses, in a fillip to the right wing of his party. He told parliament: “I am worried about the combined impact of the green policies adopted not just in Britain, but also by the European Union …” RSPB, WWF, FOE and CPRE all expressed their grave disappointment of this abandonnment of environmental regulation and the environmental recklessnes and lack of vision of throwing billions of pounds at roads and dirty energy that will only increase our dependency on gas, coal and oil instead of boosting greener alternatives.
RSPB shock at Osborne attack on environmental rules
Conservationists have defended vital environmental regulations after they came under attack from Chancellor George Osborne in the Autumn budget statement.
The Habitats Regulations, which were brought in by a Conservative Government in 1994 in order to implement the European Habitats Directive, ensure major developments do not destroy our most important wildlife sites.
The chancellor bemoaned the burden of ‘endless social and environmental goals’ on industry and described the Habitats Regulations as a ‘ridiculous cost on British business’, claiming that they amounted to ‘gold plating’ on European legislation. Defra is now set to carry out a review of the regulations.
He also failed to rule out the development of an airport in the Thames Estuary saying the Government would look at all options for a new airport hub, except a third runway at Heathrow.
‘The chancellor’s attack on vital environmental regulation is below the belt and shows how short-sighted his policy for growth is’
Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: ‘The chancellor’s attack on vital environmental regulation is below the belt and shows how short-sighted his policy for growth is.
‘These regulations have been in place for 17 years and they have not been a brake on development. Many large scale projects have gone ahead in that time and this legislation has ensured that they have not trashed some of the most important wildlife sites in Europe.
‘The Davidson report carried out in 2006 looked at the claim that the Government had goldplated European legislation, and found there was no case to answer.
‘Clearly the chancellor believes that he can bring about a quick fix of the economy by allowing unrestrained growth to trample over our precious natural environment.
‘His failure to rule out a new airport in the Thames Estuary signals a U-turn in the Government’s policy not to support such a development. This would be an act of environmental vandalism and would further undermine the Government’s commitment to a low carbon future.
‘The Treasury’s plan is a simple one – let’s build our way out of recession. This marks the biggest backward step in environmental and planning policy for a generation and would simply serve as a short-term economic sticking plaster on a problem which requires a long-term plan for effective, sustainable growth.’
Autumn statement: green government changing colour?
Posted by Darren Shirley on 29/11/11
Here’s what the Chancellor, George Osborne, said today: “If we burden [British businesses] with endless social and environmental goals – however worthy in their own right – then not only will we not achieve those goals, but the businesses will fail, jobs will be lost, and our country will be poorer.”
We should start by saying we think it’s great that the government has decided to invest in UK industry and infrastructure – but what we object to is the lazy and backward-looking choices of investment, specifically roads, air travel and other high-carbon fossil fuel-hungry industries.
If ever there was a time for positive change – a chance to reward businesses that are showing ambition and helping build a new post-carbon industrial age, it’s now. But today the government has chosen to waste that chance and gamble on limited, blinkered short-term growth founded on old thinking – and by doing so risks locking the UK into a fossil fuel-dependent, high-carbon future.
As Nick Molho, our head of energy policy, says: “The benefits of investing in the clean energy sector are huge, and could result in substantial job creation for the UK. The wind and marine renewable energy sectors alone could generate up to 115,000 new jobs within the next 10 years.”
But instead, with today’s announcement, we’re seriously concerned that the government is valuing the needs of fossil fuel lobbyists over protecting the natural environment or creating a sustainable long-term energy infrastructure.
We certainly want to see the government making positive investments to help boost UK industry, but it needs to be low-carbon and sustainable industries and infrastructure for the long term – for instance supporting electric vehicles and public transport, not simply funding more roads and cheaper fossil fuels.
We don’t believe the announcements made today amount to a sound investment for future generations. The attempt to weaken Europe-wide environmental protection laws is unreasonable and is the Chancellor taking the wrong direction for our planet’s future.
CPRE – Autumn statement a road plan for disaster
Posted by andrew lainton
Following the autumn statement by the Chancellor George Osborne, Ralph Smyth, Senior Transport campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), says:
“These new plans to build old road schemes have clearly been picked off a dusty shelf without time for much thinking. A return to building new roads in the name of job creation will lead to more traffic, move bottlenecks along rather than solving them, often at an irrevocable cost to the local environment. The idea is sadly all too characteristic of a Chancellor who has shown little concern for protecting our countryside.
“Laying new tarmac to allow the building of new out of town housing and superstores is not a plan for economic success but a road to disaster. It will weaken already struggling high streets and permanently disfigure our countryside.”
Examples of damaging new road schemes:
Lower Thames Crossing – Proposed in 1989 in the ‘Roads for Prosperity’ White Paper, this bridge could unleash so much new traffic would be generated that much of North Kent and South Essex could grind to a halt. The Government has ‘committed’ to this scheme before detailed plans for any route have been drawn up let alone costed. The environmental impact on the Kent Downs could be devastating.
Kingskerswell Bypass, Devon – The Department for Transport awarded Devon millions this summer to cut car trips and reduce the need to travel around Newton Abbott, now the Treasury is proposing to do the opposite by spending millions on this bypass first planned in the 1930s. Despite the cost of slicing through rare and beautiful habitats on Kerswell Downs, the road is predicted simply to move traffic jams down the road into Torbay.
A453, Nottingham – Though described as widening, most of the dual carriageway would be off the existing route, ploughing through agricultural land in the Green Belt. Even with the road built, by 2030 congestion during the morning peak is predicted to be worse than it is now. If High Speed 2 goes ahead, East Midlands Parkway station, which the road links to, may see its rail services cut, damaging the justification for the road.
Manchester Airport Link Road – Originally scrapped in 1998, this dual carriageway would rip through countryside that is Stockport’s green lungs, ancient woodland in the Ladybrook Valley and decimate ponds near Styall that are the home of protected Great Crested newts.
Ralph Smyth concludes: “The French investment plan proposes spending just a fifteenth on roads, with most of the rest going to rail and local public transport schemes. Osborne clearly has a lot of learning to do if he wants to catch up with our competitors.”
Friends of the Earth
Friends of the Earth’s executive director Andy Atkins comments on the autumn statement 2011:
“George Osborne’s Autumn Statement will send a wintery blast through the UK’s future economic prospects.
“Throwing billions of pounds at roads and dirty energy will increase our dependency on gas, coal and oil and lock cash-strapped homes and businesses into spiralling fuel bills.
“Just a fraction of the money earmarked for new roads would throw a crucial lifeline to the solar industry – and the 30,000 jobs currently under threat from Government cuts.
“It’s astounding that the Chancellor has rewarded lobbying by some of the world’s biggest businesses with a £250 million licence to pollute – and using funds culled from benefits rubs salt into the wound.
“The Green Investment Bank could drive a real economic recovery, but by refusing to let it off the leash the Chancellor’s missed a golden opportunity to build a safe, clean economy from the rubble of the old.”
Autumn statement: George Osborne slams ‘costly’ green policies
Chancellor tells parliament that environmental rules are a ‘burden’ on British businessesGeorge Osborne loosed his most strident rhetoric yet against environmental regulation in his autumn statement, slamming green policies as a “burden” and a “ridiculous cost” to British businesses, in a fillip to the right wing of his party.
In a clear attempt to redirect the coalition’s green policies, the chancellor told parliament: “I am worried about the combined impact of the green policies adopted not just in Britain, but also by the European Union … if we burden [British businesses] with endless social and environmental goals – however worthy in their own right – then not only will we not achieve those goals, but the businesses will fail, jobs will be lost, and our country will be poorer.”
Osborne gave £250m worth of assistance and rebates to the most energy-intensive companies, scrapped a planned rise in fuel duty, announced a massive road-building scheme and hinted at a watering down of regulations to protect British wildlife.
Environmentalists may have gained some cheer though from the promise of £1.4bn for new railways and rail improvements, including the electrification of the transpennine express and new route linking Oxford, Milton Keynes and Bedford, as well as the re-announcement of last week’s £200m for the “green deal”, the flagship policy to give households access to insulation.
But his statement was notably light on references to the green economy or the job-creating potential of industries such as renewable power. Green businesses warned that the combination of strong anti-green rhetoric and a lack of commitments to low-carbon industries risked scaring off investment in key new business sectors.
Gaynor Hartnell, the chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, said: “It makes strategic sense to invest in renewables, to help pull the UK out of the doldrums, yet the autumn statement lacks any specific new measures. There is certainly no evidence of the ‘ruthless’ focus on renewable energy called for by Nick Clegg when he spoke at the LSE earlier this year – quite the opposite – the policy uncertainty across almost every aspect of renewables is draining investor confidence.”
Paul King, the chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, said: “This was an opportunity missed to put green growth and green jobs at the heart of economic recovery.”
Conservation groups were alarmed by the chancellor’s threat to water down some of the regulations on protected habitats for wildlife and plants, by reviewing the implementation of the EU habitat and wild birds directive between now and next March. Osborne said: “We will make sure that gold-plating of EU rules on things like habitats aren’t placing ridiculous costs on British businesses.”
Martin Harper, conservation director at the RSPB, said: “The chancellor’s attack on vital environmental regulation is below the belt and shows how short-sighted his policy for growth is. These regulations [introduced under a Conservative government] have been in place for 17 years and they have not been a brake on development.”
Countryside campaigners also attacked the chancellor’s plans for a major expansion of the UK’s road network. Ralph Smyth, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “These new plans to build old road schemes have clearly been picked off a dusty shelf without time for much thinking. A return to building new roads in the name of job creation will lead to more traffic, move bottlenecks along rather than solving them, often at an irrevocable cost to the local environment. The idea is sadly all too characteristic of a chancellor who has shown little concern for protecting our countryside.”
But the chancellor’s new policy direction was applauded by other sectors of industry, including those representing the heaviest users of energy. Introducing measures to give £250m in rebates to energy-intensive industries, Osborne said: “I am worried about the combined impact of the green policies adopted not just in Britain, but also by the European Union, on some of our heavy, energy-intensive industries. We are not going to save the planet by shutting down our steel mills, aluminium smelters and paper manufacturers. All we will be doing is exporting valuable jobs out of Britain.”
Terry Scuoler, chief executive of the manufacturers’ trade body EEF, said: “This package is welcome recognition of the significant competitive pressures facing energy intensive companies and should go a long way to address them. Government must build on this by sending a signal to companies looking to invest here that it will maintain this package beyond the current spending review period.”
The campaigning organisation Sandbag said many of the companies that benefitted from the chancellor’s easing of carbon regulations were the same that had pocketed free carbon permits worth hundreds of millions of pounds in the last few years under the EU’s emissions trading scheme.