The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) remains disappointed with the UK Government’s lack of funding in tackling the climate emergency which, while there were some good points in its recent 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, has not provided the sort of resources it needs to deliver on the rapid carbon emission cuts the country needs. NFLA believes the resources from the Chancellor’s Spending Review announced yesterday are often in the wrong priority areas.
The Chancellors Spending Review comes with a £100 billion series of measures in a UK National Infrastructure Strategy. (1) Amongst the spending review pledges are £525 million of spending on supporting large scale nuclear and advanced nuclear technologies like small modular nuclear reactors. There is also a huge £27 billion pledged on road building, and £22 billion on just one rail programme – HS2 (in comparison with £17.5 billion to be provided on the upgrade of the rest of the rail network).
In contrast, £1.1 billion is being provided on energy efficiency measures to ‘green’ buildings, around £1.9 billion on electric vehicle infrastructure and grants for zero and ultra-low emissions vehicles, a further £120 million will be invested for more than 500 zero-emission buses and £257 million on cycling infrastructure. There were also modest funding improvements on protecting the natural environment such as £90m from the Nature for Climate Fund and £40m for the Green Recovery Challenge Fund. All these areas of new funding are welcomed by the NFLA, but priorities should be altered in reference to the likes of the excessive road budget. (2)
The budget for supporting new nuclear would be far better spent on renewable alternatives and decentralised energy projects which are considerably cheaper and more easily realisable in the short timescales that the climate emergency requires. None of these schemes generate new levels of radioactive waste either.
The £4 billion of new funding for a green recovery pales into comparison with the green recovery plans of Germany and France for example, which are being funded to a combined total of £63 billion instead.
Indeed, it was disappointing that the Chancellor never mentioned the ‘climate emergency’ directly once in his announcement yesterday. In responding to the Covid-19 public health emergency and its devastating impacts on the economy the government was provided with a renewed opportunity to speed up a green recovery and make such activity the centrepiece of a national infrastructure strategy. The detail in the 10 Point Plan or the Spending Review does not adequately do that. The large increase in the defence budget (partially to support the Trident nuclear weapons programme) and the cut in the Overseas Aid budget – a proportion of which could be used to encourage developing nations to prioritise low carbon projects – is very disappointing as well.
The NFLA have recently published detailed reports on the core importance of a green recovery and the immensely positive role partnering with local government on such policy would be. It has also published a report on how to reach a 100% renewable electricity system across all parts of the UK. These reports have been sent to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for comment. (3) NFLA, like many other environmental campaigning groups, will continue to lobby for a more radical change in government policy in these areas.
NFLA also encourage the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland devolved governments to prioritise a green recovery in its ongoing response to the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
NFLA Steering Committee Chair, Councillor David Blackburn said:
“Whilst NFLA welcomes increased spending on low carbon projects in the UK Government’s Spending Review, the priorities within this review are disappointing in reference to the urgent need to tackle the climate emergency. Spending £27 billion on road building and just £12 billion on low carbon projects, of which £4 billion is new spending, does not indicate a government totally committed to a green industrial revolution to deliver a zero-carbon economy. Spending on new nuclear should not be given any priority for low carbon budget spending, given the new radioactive waste such projects would create and the considerably higher costs of such projects. We call on the Chancellor and the UK Government to rethink these priorities.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)7771 930196.
Notes to Editors:
(1) UK National Infrastructure Strategy, November 2020
(2) Business Green, 25th November 2020
(3) NFLA reports on responding to a green recovery and delivering a 100% renewable strategy –