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Climate change measures in Budget 2020 a small step in the right direction

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) today welcomes new measures to reduce emissions and improve the UK’s resilience to climate change in the Government’s Budget 2020, but says investment must now be supported by longer-term policies to get UK climate action back on track.

The Budget includes a number of announcements to support green growth, limit CO2 pollution and protect communities from the impacts of flooding, amongst other measures.

In response, CCC Chairman, Lord Deben, said:

“This a realistic start. Obviously we will have to wait for the Infrastructure Strategy to see it all in the round. I am particularly pleased to see the Chancellor’s support for carbon capture and storage – and for his determination to use the tax system to encourage the right environmental choices.”

CCC Chief Executive, Chris Stark, said:

“This Budget doesn’t close the climate policy gap but the Chancellor’s focus is naturally on addressing the immediate Coronavirus situation. Instead, it puts a spotlight on what must follow: the National Infrastructure Strategy – now promised in Spring – the Spending Review and the Treasury’s Net Zero funding review. We will have to look to these to understand the Chancellor’s climate investment strategy. This Budget at least provides a large envelope for public investment overall.

“We’re pleased to see important new investment in flood defences. But, a new long-term strategy for flooding is now badly overdue – it must consider our approach to flooding defences and wider resilience measures. Spending on peatland restoration is also positive, but falls short of the extent of restoration needed to meet our Net Zero goals and address the risks to this fragile habitat.

“We welcome funding for increased electric vehicle roll-out and low-carbon heating. The tree-planting package is also positive – and will complement similar steps in Scotland and Wales to increase the size of UK woodland. It’s especially pleasing to see the Treasury remedy its position on supporting carbon capture and storage, which will put the UK in a strong position to develop carbon capture over this decade.

“It’s good to see the Treasury dipping its toe into changes to the tax barriers to reducing emissions. That hints at a willingness to consider more fundamental reform later this year. But getting on track to Net Zero obviously requires a great deal more – and it seems we will have to wait to see promised steps on energy efficiency in buildings. These issues now move centre-stage, requiring urgent attention from the Chancellor.

“We intend to assess the Government’s overall policy package in our annual report to Parliament in June.”

A number of critical announcements required to drive down emissions in line with the Government’s commitment to become a Net Zero economy by 2050 are still pending, including the Government’s pivotal Infrastructure Strategy and long-awaited announcements on energy efficiency improvements including how the Government intends to spend its manifesto commitment of £9.2bn in this area.