Campaigners are pushing for measures towards renewable energy in the spring budget. (Image: Isle of Eigg/Flickr)
The issues we face surrounding fossil fuels, pollution and waste are increasingly difficult to ignore. As public awareness gathers pace, the government is under pressure from campaigners and politicians to address the climate crisis in the spring budget before life as we know it changes drastically.
While immediate action to reduce the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on households and people across the UK is needed, campaigners are calling for a look at the bigger picture when it comes to the climate – an issue that will affect us all.
Here are the things climate charities are pushing to be included in the spring budget.
This is not the first time the government has been urged to properly insulate homes across the UK in order to cut costs on energy bills and emissions.
In his autumn budget, Hunt promised £6 billion in funding to insulate homes and upgrade boilers from 2025 onwards but the EAC said that those experiencing “fuel poverty cannot afford three winters of delay” – and neither can the climate.
Mike Childs, head of policy at Friends of the Earth, told The Big Issue: “Action that simultaneously tackles the cost-of-living and climate crises must be at the heart of [this] budget. An extension of the energy bills support scheme alone is not enough for the millions of people living in poorly insulated homes and struggling with soaring bills.
“With so many people being pushed into extreme levels of hardship, the government must not miss another opportunity to invest in the solutions that will bring down energy bills and emissions now and for the future,” he added.
Friends of the Earth are calling for the government to invest in “a street-by-street insulation programme” that begins in the neighbourhoods most in need.
Again, a windfall tax is not new or even groundbreaking – but many believe it is sorely needed.
As such, ministers and campaigners have long been calling for an increased windfall tax on oil companies to fund policies such as insulating homes, fitting energy-efficient heating systems, and renewable energy projects.
Currently, the UK relies heavily on fossil fuels for energy production, which has meant an increase in energy costs and no improvement in reducing emissions.
According to the National Grid, 44.1 per cent of electricity in the past year came from fossil fuels and only 34.5 per cent came from renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydro-electric, and biomass, which is produced by burning food, plants, and organic matter.
Investing in renewable energy will help to cut energy costs and improve the cost of living in the UK, and is considered by experts to be the most effective way of moving towards a net zero future.
Additionally, polling commissioned by climate charity Possible and conducted by Omnisis shows 58 per cent of people who are intending to vote Conservative at the next election want to see more investment in renewable energy to bring down the cost of bills.
Friends of the Earth argues that onshore and offshore renewables will “boost energy security” for the UK and ensure that the country’s gas and electricity pricing will not be at the whim of volatile global markets.
Friends of the Earth said: “The government must lift barriers to onshore wind, speed-up the development of offshore wind, while maintaining environmental safeguards, and provide additional financial support to major offshore projects that may be abandoned due to the impact of inflation.”
Green Alliance agreed, stating that Hunt should provide “more generous tax incentives” for renewable energy and green projects, similarly to the tax allowances for fossil fuel projects.
But, as of September 2022, the government had no agreed definition of what green jobs meant despite launching a “green jobs task force” in 2020.
In addition to the launch of the task force, the government previously set out a “10-point plan for a green industrial revolution” in which it promised to support two million green jobs by 2030.
In May 2022, then-Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng said that 68,000 green jobs across the economy had “already been created and supported or are in the pipeline” but data previously obtained by The Big Issue showed that nearly 6,000 of those jobs were from schemes or projects that had already been scrapped and many more would not be created until at least 2029.
Though Hunt’s spring budget is being dubbed the “back-to-work budget” and will lay out plans to “plug the skills gaps” and address the dwindling number of Brits currently in work, the plans are not expected to include any mention of investments in developing green jobs for the future.
Childs said: “With Europe and the US introducing policies to boost green growth, the government must ensure the UK doesn’t lose out on the economic growth and jobs potential that a zero-carbon economy could bring. Backing green energy and energy efficiency is not only good for the climate, but essential to our future prosperity.”
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) agreed, stating that the government’s “unwillingness to invest and use industrial strategy to deliver net zero” will lead to the UK being “left behind” in the global race towards solving the climate crisis.
Luke Murphy, associate director for the energy, climate, housing and infrastructure team at IPPR, told The Big Issue that “the UK government appears to have its fingers in its ears”, comparing policies in the US and the EU to grow clean energy and create green jobs to the lack thereof in the UK.
The IPPR estimates that the UK “needs to spend £30bn a year between now and 2030 to meet the scale of the crisis – a gap which the government has not come close to filling” and doesn’t appear to be in a rush to do so.
“If the government is serious about reaping the benefits of the transition and levelling up it should learn from Joe Biden, scale up public investment, and bring forward a serious strategy to build an economy that is prosperous, fair, and green,” Murphy added.
Investment in public transport services to make them more accessible and affordable to people, as well as introducing safer cycle lanes and other methods of transport that don’t rely on petrol-burning vehicles is another major concern for climate campaigners.
Friends of the Earth say that bus services across the country are “at risk of being lost because of a lack of funding”. In fact, bus services have been cut across England by at least 14 per cent since 2016, and hundreds more routes could disappear in the future if funding is not guaranteed by the government.
Transport contributes 24 per cent of the UK’s total emissions in 2020, with the majority coming from road vehicles such as cars. Not only are cars quashing the UK’s efforts to reach net zero, they are also exacerbating air pollution levels in many areas.
Hirra Khan Adeogun, head of car-free cities at climate charity Possible, previously told the Big Issue that top-down policy changes are needed to give people “infrastructure” as well as “getting people back on buses, providing protected cycleways, and ensuring public transport is affordable”.
She added: “Over decades we have decided to prioritise cars and if we move away from that towards a country that relies on public transport, walking, and cycling, it would revolutionise how we live.”
The Big Issue’s #BigFutures campaign is calling for investment in decent and affordable housing, ending the low wage economy, and millions of green jobs. The last 10 years of austerity and cuts to public services have failed to deliver better living standards for people in this country. Sign the open letter and demand a better future.