Spring Statement: Brexit ‘cloud of uncertainty’ could halt clean growth

Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled his Spring Statement today (March 13) which introduced a wave of consultations, reviews and policies to support clean growth.

In what is widely predicted to be Hammond’s final statement to Parliament as Chancellor, he put a major focus on environmental matters ahead of Defra’s Environment Bill, which is due later this Spring.

However, he said the ‘cloud of uncertainty’ surrounding Brexit hangs over the proposed measures.

The energy efficiency of the UK’s housing stock was high on his agenda, and the Chancellor announced that a ‘Future Homes Standard’ will be introduced by 2025 to future-proof all new homes with low carbon heating and ‘world-leading’ levels of energy efficiency.

Energy used in homes accounts for about 20% of UK greenhouse gas emission three-quarters of that comes from heating and hot water. There has previously been calls to retrofit every older home in order to meet climate target, however, there was no mention of how the government plans to reduce emissions from these older properties.

Mr Hammond also said that the government will ensure that all new housing developments deliver an increase in biodiversity.

There will be reviews into the ‘economics of biodiversity’ and consultations into new schemes that improve government investment into business energy, how to increase renewable energy into the grid and a call for evidence for offsetting transport emissions which will explore whether travel providers should be required to offer carbon offsets to their customers.

Finally, the government will designate 443,000 square kilometres of English waters as Marine Protected Area (MPA), with no fishing allowed, which builds on the 320,000 of coastline already protected.

The measures were criticised by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell who mentioned that Gordon Brown pledged a Zero Carbon Homes standard which was scrapped in 2015, just one year before it was due to come into force.

‘This government removed the Climate Change Levy exemption for renewables, that scrapped feed-in tariffs for new small scale renewable generation, and cancelled the Zero Carbon Homes policy.’

McDonnell also questioned how a transport offsetting scheme would work in practice.

‘A review of carbon offsets might reveal that they do not reduce emissions and offsetting schemes like the Clean Development Mechanism have been beset by gaming and fraud,’ he said.

Friends of the Earth’s head of political affairs, Dave Timms accused the Chancellor of ‘fiddling in the margins while the planet burns.’

‘The nation’s children are calling out for tough action to cut emissions, Mr Hammond must listen harder to the lesson they’re teaching him,’ he said.

‘With the government enthusiastically backing more runways, more roads and fracking, it’s little wonder the UK is likely to miss future climate targets.’

‘The Chancellor should have announced a massive programme of investment in home insulation and public transport, instead of pushing the false solution of carbon off-setting for aviation.’