For all his talk of supporting future generations, Hammond's Budget did the complete opposite. Organiser Adam Dyster reacts.
Among the myriad of people offering Budget commentary on Twitter today, were Business Green. They would be, their account announced 'live blogging & tweeting all green economy news from #Budget2017'. It must have been a quiet afternoon in the office.
From debt to education, the Chancellor was keen to frame his Budget in relation to 'future generations'. The Government was, he claimed 'investing in the future of the UK'. Yet on climate change, air pollution and clean energy, three of the biggest challenges facing the UK and future generations, he was completely silent.
There was no action on the devastating business tax increases about to decimate solar energy. There was no diesel scrappage scheme that could begin to turn the tide on the toxic air pollution crisis. There was no support for clean energy across the UK – despite the massive economic boost this would bring.
Worst still, when Hammond did talk about transport or energy, announcements overwhelmingly favoured fossil fuels. He touted the ‘maximum exploitation of [oil and gas] reserves’ in the North Sea when announcing a discussion paper on the subject. Vehicle Excise Duty – one of the means by which he could have transitioned away from diesel – was yet again frozen. £113million was given to address pinch points for roads across the North and the Midlands. The smaller announcements that did follow on a regional congestion competition and autonomous vehicles paled in comparison.
This was in many ways, business as usual from the Government, Hammond following in the familiar footsteps of Osborne and co. Yet what makes this silence so galling this time in particular is not just his promise to future generations, but what an opportunity it could have been to forge ahead with an ambitious green agenda.
Just as the UK faces economic uncertainty from Brexit, the Chancellor could have supported the UK’s world-leading clean energy businesses and technology, providing a strong symbol to investors and creating new jobs and apprenticeships. As fears grow around the loss of EU environmental protections, he could have committed to the action so desperately needed to save lives in the battle against air pollution, ensuring that consumers aren’t penalised with a diesel scrappage scheme. Looking for opportunities to attract business in the UK internationally, Hammond could have announced support for green finance, an area that the UK has real expertise and potential in.
Hammond didn't even mention Brexit, let alone come up with a plan that best prepares the UK to face it.
Hammond’s meant to be a pair of safe hands – but this Budget shows that, like his predecessor, his plan for the UK is short-term, unsustainable, and addicted to fossil fuels. Rather than supporting future generations, he has condemned them.
Adam Dyster is National Organiser for SERA, Labour's Environment Campaign