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Budget COP-out

Norman Baker's picture
Photo: man in front of departures board

I hope other world leaders were not paying too much attention to Rishi Sunak's Budget because if they had caught it, they may well have concluded that the British government is not serious about tackling climate change.

While carbon emissions from the energy field have reduced drastically over the last couple of decades, those from transport have barely moved, so you might think that this would be the focus for action.

But not only did the Chancellor not tackle this issue, he actually acted to make matters worse.

He announced a cut on the only charge applied to aviation, namely Air Passenger Duty. He said he wanted to help connect people across Britain. Has he not heard of the train? Campaign for Better Transport's recent plane vs train race from central London to central Glasgow demonstrated that those who take the train can get to their destination just as quickly as those who fly – while emitting only a seventh of the carbon.

What the Chancellor has done has been to encourage modal shift from low carbon train to high carbon plane.

And then he announced for the twelfth year running, there would be no increase in fuel duty for carbon-emitting road vehicles. Yet over the ten years from 2011 to 2021, the cost of travelling by bus increased by 60%, rail fares by 33% and motoring costs by just 21% (even with this summer's rise in fuel prices accounted for).

What the Chancellor has done has been to encourage modal shift from low carbon train and bus to high carbon car and van.  

On top of that, he announced the commitment to the government's massive road building programme, seemingly oblivious to the accepted fact that new roads simply generate more traffic.

There was, to be fair, some good news for local transport with a £7 billion injection of funds, and a real terms increase for the Department for Transport's budget, but overall, sad to say, just ahead of the international climate meeting in Glasgow next week, this was a climate COP-out.

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