Honk! The greenest thing about the budget was knotted around the Chancellor’s neck

Strong environment reporting from the UK.(From the editor)
To move to sustainable transport in our cities, we need to create a strong citizen consensus for change — a tough call since the issues and necessary remedial approaches tend to be quite complex and unfamiliar to many of us who are so accustomed to what we see out on the street every day that it effectively tends to freeze our minds. While there have for years been examples of outstanding environmental reporting, the mainstream media by and large have not yet been brought around to our side. However this is changing, and while certainly more slowly then one would wish we are increasingly hearing from a growing culture of investigative journalists and commentators who are showing that they are ready to dig in and deal with these complexities.

This good piece from yesterday’s Daily Telegraph strikes this reader as a
clear and useful contribution. But to appreciate what at uphill struggle this
is, in Britain at least, have a look at the reader comments at
http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/geoffreylean/100044535/the-greenest-thing-
about-the-budget-was-tied-around-the-chancellors-neck/#disqus_thread
.

The greenest thing about the budget was knotted around the Chancellor’s neck
– By Geoffrey Lean , The Telegraph, UK. June 22nd, 2010.

Well, at least his tie was green. But George Osborne’s neckwear was much the
most verdant part of the first budget from Britain’s ‘greenest ever
Government’, as the Prime Minister calls it, delivered by a man who, only a
few months ago, was promising to make the Treasury ‘a green ally, not a
foe’.

There was no sign of the ‘major shift’ towards green taxation both men
were promising as they made their party electable again by embracing the
environment. Indeed greenery took up all of 52 words in the Chancellor’s 57
page budget speech.

Sure, there were a few, largely unnoticed, crumbs. The standard rate of the
landfill tax – one of Britain’s few green ones – is to increase by £8 a
tonne annually for at least three years, while the aggregate levy is to go
up by a full 10p a tonne this year. But as far as immediate measures go,
that’s about it.

And some of the cuts could do great harm. Research for the
Campaign for Sustainable Transport, for example, found that the 25 per cent
cuts expected from transport could cause the decimation of bus services, the
withdrawal of many local train services outside London and 33 per cent fare
rises for those that remain.

And yet the Budget Red Book itself, in a short green section says that
‘climate change is one of the most serious threats the world faces’ and
asserts ‘the Government is committed to playing its part in moving to a low
carbon economy.’ There’s a few weasel words in that commitment, to be sure,
but even ignoring them begs the question: ‘Where’s the beef?’

Mr Osborne effectively replies: ‘Wait and see’. His promised green measures
are postponed or to be ‘assessed’ or put out to ‘consultation’ – among them
the pledged Green Investment Bank, ‘green financial products’, reform of
the Climate Change Levy to produce a floor price for carbon, and unspecified
energy market reforms.

This is enough for the green investment manager,
Climate Change Capital, which calls them ‘an ambitious set of proposals for
stimulating investment in the low carbon economy’. But others are much less
enthusiastic.

Green MP Caroline Lucas, says, predictably enough: ‘I just think this
Budget nails the lie to any idea that if you vote blue you get green. There
was hardly a green shred anywhere.’ The Environment Industries Commission,
which had been ‘optimistic that the Government would today lay the
foundation for low carbon and sustainable economic growth’ was left ‘ruing a
missed opportunity.’

Will Osborne’s future Budgets be more environmentally friendly? Let’s hope
so. But first the Chancellor will have to move the greenery from around his
neck into that red Budget Box.

# # #

- Source: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/geoffreylean/100044535/the-greenest-thing-about-the-budget-was-tied-around-the-chancellors-neck/

About the author:

Geoffrey Lean is Britain’s longest-serving environmental correspondent,
having pioneered reporting on the subject almost 40 years ago.

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One response to “Honk! The greenest thing about the budget was knotted around the Chancellor’s neck

  1. Simon Norton

    I agree with most of what has been said on this, but the VAT increase will not
    affect public transport users because public transport is zero rated. If any
    change has been made to this I haven’t heard about it.

    What will affect public transport is cuts in local government spending. Public
    transport is one of the few areas where local government has no statutory duty
    and where there is no consultation requirement (which means it’s an area likely
    to be targeted if local authorities need to make cuts quickly).

    Simon Norton

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