Tuesday, 6 November 2007

A series of missed opportunities

Despite the usual rhetoric from the Labour Party, they have as usual done nothing much about Climate Change. In the Queens speech today, and the Pre-Budget Report and the Comprehensive Spending Review, its business as usual. I've quoted from Caroline Lucas MEP and Friends of the Earth below.

On the Queens Speech:
* Energy bill includes plans to allow private companies
to build a new generation of nuclear power stations, Caroline Lucas MEP says "Government support for nuclear power is disastrous, and means committing the UK to a dirty, dangerous and astronomically expensive future. Going down the nuclear route also means exposing Britain, and the world, to greater risk of terrorist attacks and nuclear war, as it increases the volume of nuclear materials available. It also ignores the advice of its own Sustainable Development Commission, established to advise the Government on environmental issues. The SDC concluded last year that there is no need for new nuclear power stations - saying the dangers and costs outweigh any potential benefits in terms of combating climate change or guaranteeing future energy security.”

* The Climate Change Bill has a target of 60% by 2050, not nearly far enough or quick enough. Proposals to create a legal framework to reduce the UK's carbon dioxide emissions are welcome, low level targets that we are not likely to meet do not constitute radical action on climate change.

* On the Planning Reform Bill, the current proposals for a separate planning system for major infrastructure projects mean undermining democracy in favour of an increasingly centralised and authoritarian government. The Green Party believes that a healthy democracy should encourage public participation in decision making. Consulting with local people for disruptive, polluting projects like airports is essential, and any attempt to 'streamline' these processes to save money, or to hand them over to appointed yes-men is a scandalous affront to the rights of ordinary people in the UK.

* On the Housing and Regeneration Bill, the government's chief aim for housing must be ensuring a greater supply of social housing. In recent years, this sector has gone into rapid decline but affordable housing is a right. In 1990, 13,000 local authority dwellings were completed. In 2004 /2005, this figure was just 100. Brown needs to ensure that any new build has as a staring point housing provision for those who need it most. What proportion of eco- town homes will go to the 100,000 homeless households currently living in temporary accommodation? The Green Party would give priority to the maintenance and improvement of existing properties before building 3 million new homes.

On The Stern Report and Pre Budget Report

Almost exactly one year after the publication of the Stern Report, this presented a great opportunity for the Chancellor to set the UK on the course to a low-carbon economy. The announcements were also expected to be one of the opening shots in a General Election campaign.

In the pre-budget report, Alistair Darling announced virtually nothing to tackle climate change. This was an immense disappointment and a huge missed opportunity following the moderately green Budget earlier in the year. The momentum was not built on or even maintained.

On taxation, almost the only positive measure was a move to levying Air Passenger Duty (APD) per plane rather than per passenger. Even this is subject to consultation, won’t come in for two years and contains no guarantee that the level of APD will rise.

There were no announcements to encourage low carbon cars, even though imposing a purchase tax on gas guzzlers had been leaked to the press a couple of weeks before. The Chancellor postponed any announcements until the Budget next Spring when the final report of the King Review of low carbon cars will be published. On spending, there were no detailed announcements beyond a commitment to continue funding road building, despite the seemingly inexorable and almost institutionalised cost increases.

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