What does the Autumn Statement mean for Sustainability?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne gave his annual Autumn Statement to Parliament on the 3rd December 2014.  The Autumn Statement, often seen as the mini-budget announcement, outlines the Government’s latest plans for finance and economic growth.  Topics this year ranged from stamp duty and investment in the NHS to environmental issues such as fracking and flooding defence. 

The Autumn Statement was delivered at a time when many sustainability professionals are calling for the Government to focus on decarbonisation, progression towards a circular economy and a better long-term strategy for sustainability.

However the sector has generally been left disappointed by the announcement, with many believing that sustainability issues have been ignored, whilst weight has been thrown behind shale gas and other fossil fuels.

Some of the key environmental points of the Autumn Statement include:

  • An apparent backing for fracking with the announcement of proposals for a Shale Gas Sovereign Wealth Fund, which will be funded by the proceeds of shale gas.
  • A new £31 million fund for sub-surface research test centres.
  • A reduction in the main supplementary tax rate for North Sea oil from 32% to 30%, which equates to a tax cut of around £94 million.
  • £2.3 billion of funding for 1,400 flood defence projects across the UK.

In addition to the perceived support for fossil fuel industries, Osborne’s Autumn Statement has also received criticism for its complete avoidance of climate change issues or renewable energy.  Many had hoped that the ‘Greenest Government Ever’ would be announcing investments in clean energy and a push towards greener agendas.

The Autumn Statement came on the same day that research suggested the UK could have just experienced the hottest year on record this year. And in the wake of the recent damning IPCC Climate Change Report, it is hoped that Governmental focus on sustainability and climate change initiatives will very soon become a much greater priority.

The full Autumn Statement 2014 can be viewed here.

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