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Bookmark and ShareAndrew Simms is nef‘s Policy Director and head of nef’s Climate Change programme.

This was touted as the ‘green budget’, but the commitments on energy efficiency and low-carbon industry are obscured by a cloud of greenhouse gases spewing from the prop-ups given to the car and oil industry. It’s as if the Chancellor wants to ‘have his planet and eat it.’ You could say this is a balanced budget in the sense that any positive environmental action is likely to be cancelled-out by the Government locking-in a fossil fuel intensive infrastructure for transport and energy. As a result the budget turns out to be more beige than green.

Any shoots of recovery will not be green unless they are part of a rapid transition to a low carbon economy. The budget should be solving two problems. First, we need a green economic defibrillator to kick-start the country out of recession, but the Government seem to be just sparking two rusty wires together. Second, if we get the patient on its feet, we still have to cure its chronic fossil-fuel smoking habit.

It’s good to now have a proper, legally binding target for reducing emissions. But, the UK’s continuing dependence on oil, coal and gas, and plans to build more runways and roads, means the target is like setting someone a deadline to give up smoking, and then pushing them into a smoke-filled bar where all the walls are lined with cigarette machines.

Plans for electric cars may sound attractive, but you still need the clean energy to power them. As things are, together with ‘scrappage’ schemes, the initiative could even see total emissions rise rather than fall. More than a low carbon vehicle strategy, if the UK is to improve its own energy security and environment, and tackle climate change we need a low car vehicle strategy.


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nef employees blog in their personal capacity. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the new economics foundation.