Budget 2018: An assault on our climate

“Rather than action to avert climate breakdown we saw the Chancellor accelerate faster towards it, throwing £30 billion at road building and freezing fuel duty for the ninth year running…” Molly Scott Cato MEP, Green Party finance spokesperson, takes apart the 2018 Budget.

Philip Hammond
Philip Hammond

Flickr / EU2017EE Estonian Presidency / cc-by-2.0

Chancellor Philip Hammond

Molly Scott Cato
Tue 30 Oct 2018

Ahead of this year’s budget the Green Party issued a challenge to the chancellor: we said it would fail if a single pound was spent on climate-wrecking projects. So did Mr Hammond pass this test?

It will come as no surprise that he failed spectacularly. What we witnessed was billions of pounds splashed on climate wreckage, yet not a single mention of climate change. This despite the fact that climate scientists warned just a few weeks ago that we have only a 12-year window to make ‘urgent and unprecedented changes’ to our economy and society in order to limit global warming to 1.5⁰C.  

But rather than action to avert climate breakdown we saw the Chancellor accelerate faster towards it, throwing £30 billion at road building and freezing fuel duty for the ninth year running. This effectively now amounts to a £9 billion tax give-away a year, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, enough to reverse all Conservative benefit cuts of the past eight years. There was also a sneaky £3 billion tax break for oil and gas companies in the North Sea, through the removal of ‘tax barriers’ to investment.

Compare these eye-watering sums to the pittance given towards the environment – just £60bn to plant a few trees and the promise of a new tax on plastic packaging. But to cap it all, the chancellor chose to abandon the so-called ‘latte tax’ on single-use cups. Evidently Hammond is ‘not convinced it would affect behaviour.’ Perhaps he didn’t notice that when a similar tax was introduced on single plastic bags, use plummeted 85 per cent in just 10 months.

This could have been a budget to turbo-charge the green economy

This budget was not just an assault on our climate; it was yet again a hugely missed economic opportunity. This could have been a budget to turbo-charge the green economy, in particular to offer support and incentives to exploit the huge potential for renewable energy resources in the UK.

For example, in my South West constituency, off-shore and on-shore wind, solar, tidal and thermal power could provide for all the region’s energy needs and create over one hundred thousand jobs in the renewable energy sector.  

Following this budget, the Chancellor and the Conservative Government need to be placed in special measures when it comes to tackling climate change. They and the vested interests they support want to maintain the status quo. But this simply isn’t possible; we face a climate emergency and must switch to World War II level mobilisation mode to safeguard our planet for future generations.

That is why I have pledged my support for the Extinction Rebellion movement, which aims, where necessary, to use mass civil disobedience and peaceful law breaking to try and press this government into action in response to the climate breakdown and ecological crisis we face.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed – Mahatma Gandhi