Lack of environment measures in the Budget ‘deeply worrying’ say campaigners

Chancellor Philip Hammond holding his red ministerial box outside 11 Downing Street, London, before

Chancellor Philip Hammond holding his red ministerial box outside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his Budget. PIC: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The lack of measures to tackle society’s biggest environmental challenges in this week’s Budget announcement has been described as “deeply worrying’ by environmentalists from the region.

Plastic recycling material PIC: Roland Plastics

Plastic recycling material PIC: Roland Plastics - Credit: Archant

Rachel Fulcher, co-ordinator for the Friends of the Earth group on the Suffolk Coast, criticised Chancellor Philip Hammond for failing to address climate change and clean growth in his Budget speech, which comes three weeks after a major UN report warned the global economy and society faces a huge transformation in the next decade to prevent dangerous global warming.

She said: “After the IPCC report tried to persuade government’s how important it is to do something now, it’s deeply worrying that climate change wasn’t mentioned once. If we don’t cut back carbon emissions significantly in the next decade, it could be too late because we will then be into tipping points.”

The main environmental measure announced by Mr Hammond is plans for a tax on plastic packaging which does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic - a move designed to make sustainable packaging more economically attractive.

But the Chancellor shied away from the so-called “latte levy” on disposable coffee and other drinks cups, claiming it would not on its own deliver a decisive shift in behaviour.

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But Ms Fulcher disagreed: “2.5 billion disposable coffee cups go to landfill each year and it’s terribly disappointing this hasn’t been tackled. We believe putting an extra 25p on the price of each cup would have changed behaviours and encouraged more people to use reusable cups.”

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin, who was recently made shadow minister for waste and recycling, said any move that seeks to tackle the plastic crisis is “welcome”. However, he added that Labour had doubts that a tax on packaging containing less than 30% recycled plastic “will have any significant effect”.

Sandy Martin said there is zero chance of Parliament backing the Brexit deal. Picture: SEANA HUGHES

Sandy Martin said there is zero chance of Parliament backing the Brexit deal. Picture: SEANA HUGHES - Credit: Archant

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He added: “It will be extremely difficult to enforce, and any monitoring system may place undue burdens on retailers – especially small independent retailers.

“Because there is no realistic choice for consumers to select identical products in differing forms of packaging, any tax is most likely to add to costs to consumers rather than incentivising change. A simple tax on single-use cups containing plastic would be far easier to introduce, manage and enforce - and far easier for the public to understand. We cannot understand why the government has chosen not to introduce such a levy.”

The Government also unveiled £50 million in credits to support the planting of 10 million trees to tackle carbon emissions, and £10 million between 2019 and 2023 for community street trees and urban trees.

The Woodland Trust’s director of conservation Abi Bunker said the support for more trees “while a welcome start, is only a step in the right direction to re-green our deforested country and tackle our climate change crisis”.

She warned the £30 billion road investment, with many ancient woodland and trees under threat from new developments, threw a shadow over the announcement.

Green Party Suffolk County Councillor Robert Lindsay denounced the Budget for freezing fuel duty for the ninth consecutive year, maintaining support for oil and gas and failing to support onshore wind and solar.

Green Party Suffolk County Councillor Robert Lindsay

Green Party Suffolk County Councillor Robert Lindsay - Credit: Archant

He added: “If we want to reduce carbon emissions, this Budget goes in completely the wrong direction.

“There was no money for public transport, bike lanes or maintaining pavements - these are the things we should be prioritising if we want to be more sustainable.

“The Government also continues to subsidise fossil fuel extraction from the North Sea and fracking - we are opening up a new fossil fuel industry at a time when we should be moving away from it.”

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