Thursday, 24 March 2011

ConDem coalition's green aspirations dashed against monetarist budget

Green Peace protesters (Guardian)
The UK's coalition government, amusingly nicknamed "ConDem" by opponents who see the UK being condemned to years of misery, included a raft of "green" measures in its budget proposals unveiled yesterday. However, although they speak the green words, they don't deliver. They focus on a traditional economic model of monetarism and "growth is king", when we need to adopt green economic strategies if we are to avert looming environmental disaster.

Caroline Lucas' Guardian blog summarises ways in which the Budget makes green sounds - and then fails to deliver. She says: "The chancellor has missed a huge opportunity to turn environmental necessity to our economic and social advantage and end our dependency on fossil fuels."

Government budget proposals that sound green but do the opposite:
• Green Economy - Set up a Green Bank - but stop it from borrowing
• Sustainable Transport - Scrap the planned tax on air travel, and reduce tax on petrol for cars
• Carbon floor prices: at £30 a tonne, the new levy on carbon will hardly promote low-carbon energy, but  will give nuclear power companies a windfall subsidy
• Zero-carbon homes - change rules so "zero-carbon" homes would in fact create carbon emissions.

Caroline Lucas says: "This budget contains nothing to shift us away from our dependency on oil and gas, nothing to take advantage of the potential of new technologies such as wind, wave and tide, and precious little to encourage investment in renewable industries.

"This is not only bad economics – it is also a huge missed opportunity. Between the extremes of Tory kill-to-be-kind austerity and a return to Labour's debt-fuelled spend-a-thon lies a more subtle alternative: avoiding savage cuts in public spending that could trigger a new recession, but also concentrating that spending where it has the maximum economic, social and environmental benefit.

She describes how this would work. The "green deal" says money invested energy saving (home insulation and domestic solar panels for example) could sustain far more jobs than other forms of government spending, and also reduce fuel poverty, improve health and tackle climate change. "Today, the arguments in favour are stronger, particularly with hikes in regressive taxes such as VAT and cuts in benefits and services leaving the poorest even more vulnerable," she said.

Link to Caroline Lucas Blog

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