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UK well behind its European peers on green spending

A new report from Greenpeace, comparing the investment in green initiatives across Europe’s top five economies, has found the UK lagging behind.

Based on the International Energy Agency’s Government Energy Spending Tracker, Greenpeace looked at clean energy investment support in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain between April 2020 and the end of April 2023.

The areas in which spending was examined were:  Electricity networks, low-carbon electricity, low-carbon & efficient transport, general, fuels & technology innovation, people-centred transitions, and energy-efficient buildings and industry.

Italy were the top spenders overall, having been the most prolific at investing in low-carbon transport and energy-efficient buildings. With the smallest population of the five countries, Italy’s total spend of £111bn equates to $1,081.86 per person.

By comparison, the UK’s $33bn, equates to just $494.43 per person.

Spain excelled in the electric networks sector, with their $9bn investment nearly double that of second place Italy. The UK had no reported spending in this area. 

In energy-efficient buildings, the UK was second worst. In fuels & technology innovation it was worst, a bottom place we maintain in the low-carbon & efficient transport sector. In fact, in all seven categories, the UK finish either 4th or 5th.

Greenpeace UK Climate Campaigner, Georgia Whitaker, said: ‘It’s clear that despite the government’s bluster, we are utterly failing on the world stage when it comes to green investment. Not only are the US and China leaving us in the dust in the race on green technology, we’re also doing terribly compared to our European neighbours.

‘We urgently need a bold green industrial strategy to boost our flailing economy, help ordinary people with the cost of living, and tackle the climate crisis. Green infrastructure investment, with a focus on renewable energy, insulating our homes and making transport greener would do just that.’

Bob Ward, the policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said: ‘There is now very clear evidence that the UK has been investing much less than its competitors across a range of areas, including on tackling climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation.

‘This low investment explains why productivity has stagnated in the UK and growth has been so feeble. It also explains why our homes and businesses are vulnerable to climate change impacts, our countryside and seas are becoming depleted of wildlife, our cities have dirty air, and our rivers and beaches are covered in sewage.’

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