ECO2 VIEW: UK Budget – Less soundbites, more action. The time to deliver on clean growth commitments is now.

Welcome to the first edition of Eco2’s new blog series Eco2 View, which we hope will provide topical and engaging insight into the issues that matter to us as one of Wales’ leading renewable energy companies.

And what a time to kick things off; in the last few weeks alone, we’ve seen the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publish a shocking report on the urgent action needed to avoid environmental devastation, the Government launch its first ever Green GB Week to bring society together to tackle climate change, and rumours about the contents of Mr. Hammond’s red briefcase start to surface.

It’s the latter I’d really like to talk about; at the last Budget announcement, the Chancellor said that the UK “led the world on climate change agreements” and stated: “We cannot keep our promise to the next generation to build an economy fit for the future, unless we ensure our planet has a future.” Right now, though, it seems that the future of our planet is uncertain.

The long awaited report by the IPCC made the stark revelation that the global economy will have to undergo a green industrial revolution “unprecedented” in scale and scope in just three decades if temperature increases are to be limited to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. If not, face climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth, the IPCC warns.

So, what can the Chancellor present in this Budget that will help us avert disaster? Well, the answer is, probably, the opposite of last year. Despite a couple of well-placed soundbites about climate change agreements and Electric Vehicles, when it came to investment in green initiatives and infrastructure, the Budget of 2017 was all style and very little substance.

In fact, last year’s Budget document said there would be no new low carbon electricity levies until 2025, beyond the money already committed, such as that set aside for the new Hinkley C nuclear plant and to support technologies including offshore wind through Contracts for Difference.

Ultimately, this left onshore wind, which has been frozen out of the UK’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) framework since 2015, out in the cold. This appears rather off key, given that onshore wind is now the cheapest form of new power generation, is experiencing record highs of public support and has the potential to deliver tens of thousands of new jobs. Indeed, huge cost reductions have also been seen across alternative sources of renewable energy, such as biomass, which has the potential to deliver significant results; at Eco2 alone, our 6 live biomass projects have a capacity of 217MW – the equivalent of powering over half a million homes.

Last week, Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry MP formally sought guidance from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on how the UK can make steps towards a zero-carbon economy in homes, transport, agriculture and industry. Yet the CCC have already made it clear that the UK government needs to offer more subsidies to the renewables industry to meet its climate change goals. This should certainly be reflected in next week’s Budget but will also need to be paired with changes to policy, such as lifting the effective ‘ban’ on onshore wind projects from accessing CfD money.

In line with this response to the IPCC report, the Minister also announced at the so-called Green GB Week launch that ‘green collar’ jobs could reach 2 million by 2030, generating up to £170 billion in annual exports for UK businesses. To achieve this, however, we’ll need a Budget that offers further investment into the education and skills required to fill these jobs in the future.

So far, the signs don’t look good; we already know that fuel duty is going to be frozen for the ninth time in a row and, despite more soundbites on conserving the environment for future generations, any substantive reference to the Government’s clean growth plans were noticeably absent from May’s now infamous conference speech.

But, given the most recent announcements on climate change, is this really something the UK Government can afford to leave out? As the IPCC have warned, the time for action is now, otherwise the future generations May and Hammond have vowed to protect will be those that will face the consequences.

Dr David Williams, Chief Executive, Eco2