UK Budget Endangers Net-Zero Climate Target, Greens Complain

  • Date: 12/03/20
  • The Independent

Academics and green groups slate ‘truly awful’ Budget that sees chancellor ‘threatening attainment of UK’s net-zero target’

The Budget unveiled by the government makes it more difficult for the UK to meet its net-zero carbon climate target, academics and environmentalists have warned.

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was accused of undermining the goal set by Theresa May just nine months ago, after he froze fuel duty yet again – a policy that has cost a cumulative £50bn since 2011.

As well as making it even cheaper to drive compared with public transport fares, the chancellor announced a £27bn, 4,000-mile road-building programme compared with just £1bn for green transport. 

Environmental groups said that Budget on Wednesday was “truly awful” and that it “completely destroys any pretence of UK government leadership”.

The Budget comes just months before the UK is due to host the international COP26 summit, where other countries will be asked to make their own contributions to cutting their carbon emissions. 

“It is a mistake to freeze the fuel-duty escalator for the 10th year in a row, threatening attainment of UK’s net-zero target, and damaging the UK’s credibility in advance of hosting the UN climate conference in December,” said Steven Sorrell, professor of energy policy at the University of Sussex Business School.

“Car drivers have enjoyed a large price cut in real terms since 2010, since the price of gasoline and diesel has not kept pace with inflation. At the same time, public transport fares have risen faster than inflation, and bus travel has declined.  

“Cheap fuel prices have encouraged people to purchase gas-guzzling SUVs, which now account for one quarter of new car sales. Carbon emissions from transport are rising, and cars now emit more CO2 than power stations. These trends are not sustainable.”

Professor Sorrell said the global fall in oil prices had provided a political “opportunity” to reinstate the escalator and argued that “much of the burden” would fall on high-income groups.

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