It’s a crying shame that yesterday’s budget did nothing to help build the UK’s global position on sustainability. Let’s think of the missed opportunities, the 18,000 miles of shoreline we have here, our thriving innovation sector (according to NESTA’s Innovation Report the spend is £15.5bn representing 1.1% of UK GDP) and the growing number of people travelling by bus, train and bike. If you combine this with the sizeable group who are out of work (1.45 million) and looking to get back into the work place, in the words of Ann Pettifor, an alternative economist, and brilliant Founder of Jubilee 2000 there is a solution, “we have the highest youth unemployment in history. How foolish to suggest we can’t afford to use the energy, talents and skills of young people to tackle climate change.”
The announcement of an additional 80,000 work experience places for young people and an additional 50,000 apprenticeship places in the words of Ann Pettifor it is ‘foolish’ that we are not harnessing their energy and skills to be part of a new economy less reliant on oil.
Although the Chancellor made much of “start-up Britain”, he did little to encourage green enterprise; the Green Investment Bank, which is a great idea, will not be lending until 2015, which is not good news if you are a fledgling clean technology company getting off the ground. Some of the measures eased the pain on consumers of the high price of fuel and will be popular (and headline grabbing) but the reality is we’ll save about 50 pence for every fill up. It’s head in the sand stuff and will do nothing to wean the UK off our dangerous reliance on oil.
We need a long-term strategy for an efficient, low-carbon transport system. Investing £200 million for the funding of new rail projects is a drop in the ocean. Tax breaks and incentives could have been offered for companies investing in new energy technologies that would attract city funding, turning this new economy into reality. But given that the new Green Investment Bank won’t start lending until 2015, we may have to wait for the next Greenest Government.