EMEA Upstream Sustainability Services
When I read the Government’s recently released vision for ‘Mainstreaming Sustainable Development’ I found myself somewhat sceptical of the proposal put forward, in particular its patchy and inconsistent approach.
This week’s budget presented the first real opportunity since the release of this document for the government to demonstrate its commitment to sustainability, yet sustainability practitioners may be disappointed. What could have been the greenest budget ever, in reality was just the framework of a green budget, lacking any real substance.
Some of the more positive announcements such as greater initial funding than previously expected for the Green Investment Bank were counter-acted with conflicting priorities and statements. None of this seems likely to create the long-term certainty that business requires in order to level the playing field.
Three specific issues highlight the conflicting nature of government priorities:
– First, the surprise announcement of a carbon price floor at £13 per tonne from 2013 rising to £30 by 2020 boosted the government’s credentials in committing to a low carbon economy. But this was undermined by a reduction in fuel duty which emphasises the UK’s dependence on growing imports of fossil fuels.
– Then there was the announcement that the Green Investment Bank will be allowed to borrow from 2015, thereby giving it greater powers. But how does this compare with a major review of the feed-in tariff system which is now under official consultation and expected to be subject to further spending cuts?
– Finally a presumption in favour of sustainable development has been introduced to the planning system, “so that the default answer to development is ‘yes’”. But as this was not supplemented with associated definitions, it is challenging to determine its true meaning and consequence.
All in all, this budget does not represent a government committed to radical change in favour of a low carbon economy. In my opinion, if this government is sincere in its commitment to ‘Mainstream Sustainable Development’ it will need to up its game significantly going forwards.