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Environment

Environment Groups Say UK's Budget Is an 'Unforgivable Betrayal' on Climate Change


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Some of the country’s top environmental organisations have written to UK Prime Minister Theresa May following the announcement of the 2018 Autumn Budget on Monday.

The letter reportedly highlighted what it described as an “unforgivable betrayal of future generations” due to a “profoundly worrying lack of policy changes to combat the greatest threat of our time: climate change” in the budget. 

Chief executives of Greenpeace, 10:10 Climate Action, and Global Witness are among those who have signed the letter. 

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“Not only did the chancellor fail to mention climate change in his speech, but the policies he put forward — from subsidy to polluters via the fuel duty freeze to a mass road building programme — will increase the UK’s climate impact,” the letter reads.

“With fracking now proceeding, and continued tax breaks being handed out to fossil fuel firms, we believe it is now vital we call out failure from a generation of politicians who will not live to see the devastation that their policies will wreak on future generations,” it said. 

The letter went on to highlight the government’s fracking programme — with fracking continuing in Lancashire — and findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in October, which warned world leaders there are just 12 years left to take action on stopping global warming. 

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“[The report] was very clear about what governments need to urgently do — yet your government has all but ignored its publication in this budget,” says the letter. 

It added that, given it is “almost too late already… pushing policymaking into the long grass of Brexit at this stage represents an abject failure to govern in the interests of the people you are elected to serve.” 

Many in the environmental sector had hoped that the budget would cement environmental action being taken by the government, but were disappointed when climate change wasn’t mentioned.

“Three weeks since the world’s leading climate scientists said governments have just 12 years to turn the tide on the catastrophic and irreversible consequences of climate change, the chancellor has delivered a budget that reads as though he missed the memo,” said Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven. 

Within the budget, announced in parliament by Chancellor Philip Hammond, was funding to support the National Roads Fund for Highways England between 2020 and 2025, according to the Independent, and an announcement that fuel duty has been frozen for the ninth year in a row.

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The government also announced a tax on plastic packaging, including packaging that has been imported, that doesn’t include at least 30% recycled content. The details of the tax are subject to consultation, but it isn’t due to come into force until April 2022. 

Hammond said in his announcement: “Billions of disposable plastic drink cups, cartons, bags, and other items are used every year in Britain. Convenient for consumers, but deadly for our wildlife and our oceans.” 

“Where we cannot achieve reuse, we are determined to increase recycling,” he added. 

The budget turned away, however, from a proposed “latte levy” — which would see customers charged extra for using disposable cups for hot drinks — with Hammond saying that he had “concluded that a tax in isolation would not at this point deliver a decisive shift from disposable to reusable cups.” 

It comes after the introduction of a 5p charge for single-use plastic bags has achieved an 86% cut in usage since it was introduced in 2015. 

MPs including Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, Labour’s Clive Lewis, and former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron also reportedly added their names to the letter. 

The letter said that its signatories don’t accept that “individuals in the government do not care about climate change,” and highlighted that it isn’t too late to act. It ended by calling for “urgent action” to be announced in the coming days.