Jeremy Hunt unveiled a raft of environmental commitments during his first budget this afternoon, including huge boosts for nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage (CCS).
After various leaks to the media, the chancellor confirmed up to £20bn for early development of carbon capture and storage (CCS), paving the way for deployment “across the country”.
He said that this would help support up to 50,000 jobs and cut 20-30 million tonnes of CO2 every year by 2030.
Hunt also revealed that nuclear energy will be classified as “environmentally sustainable”, and given the same investment incentives as renewable energy, subject to consultation.
A new body – Great British Nuclear – will work to bring down costs and provide one-quarter of the UK’s electricity by 2050, according to the chancellor, who said: “increasing capacity is vital to meeting our net-zero obligations.”
The Energy Price Guarantee for households will also remain at £2,500 for next three months, the Climate change Agreement Scheme extended for two years, and £80bn was confirmed for 12 new investment zones to level-up the country.
Commenting on the announcements, IEMA CEO, Sarah Mukherjee MBE, said: "The extension of the energy price cap is welcome news for households up and down the country, struggling to manage the soaring costs of their energy bills.
“With the Committee on Climate Change warning only last week that we risk failing to meet our 2035 net-zero electricity target, investment in cleaner forms of energy generation and technology at today’s Budget are also welcome.
“However, a more joined-up approach to investment in the energy sector continues to be required if we are to achieve our long-term decarbonisation goals. Investing in people, through green jobs and skills, is ultimately critical to delivering a cleaner and more sustainable energy sector in the UK."
In his “Budget for growth”, the chancellor also revealed that “full capital expensing” will begin next month, which will let firms deduct the cost of any eligible investment from their corporation tax bills immediately, rather than over several years.
Combined with capital allowances reform, this will deliver an estimated £27bn tax cut for businesses.
Hunt also revealed some positive news for the economy, claiming that the UK is set to avoid a technical recession this year, adding that the government has seen “inflation falling, debt down and a growing economy”.
On skills, he unveiled a new ‘returnerships’ apprenticeship targeted at the over 50s, which will refine existing skills programmes to make them more accessible to older workers and help them back into work.
A planned 11p rise in fuel duty will be cancelled, maintaining last year’s 5p cut for another twelve months.
Furthermore, disability benefits reform will herald the “biggest change to the welfare system” in the past 10 years, with the chancellor also announcing 30 hours of free childcare for every child over the age of nine months.
He said that the Spring Budget completes a “landmark Conservative reform”, adding: “Britain is on a lasting path to growth with a revolution in childcare support, the biggest ever employment package and the best investment incentives in Europe.”
Reaction to the Budget has not been so positive from green groups, with many concerned that the announcements will not be enough to tackle climate change and the cost-of-living crisis.
Friends of the Earth’s head of policy, Mike Childs, said: “With so many people being pushed into extreme levels of hardship, the government must invest in the solutions that will bring down energy bills and harmful emissions now and for the future.
"A street-by-street insulation programme starting with those most in need, and investment in cheap, popular, homegrown renewables are crucial.”
IEMA’s Head of Policy, Ben Goodwin, has also written a blog with further detail on what was and wasn’t announced on energy.
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