Will the UK 2020 budget make Britain carbon neutral by 2050?

On 11th March, Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered his first budget to the nation. Predictions of a ‘green budget’ were overshadowed by the ongoing impact of Covid 19 which produced the main headline from the day: Chancellor pumps £12 billion into economy to combat coronavirus.  

But the Chancellor did not forget the environment. He spoke at length about the government’s commitment to the UK's net zero transition, stressing that “there can be no lasting prosperity for our people, if we do not protect our planet,” and announcing that the government is committed to getting green growth and environmental protection "done".

Jen Mills in the Metro provided a succinct summary of how the budget will have an impact on the environment. In total, the government is going to invest £1 billion in green transport solutions. A ‘plastics packaging tax’ will be introduced, charging manufacturers and importers £200 per tonne on packaging made of less than 30% recycled plastic. £500 million will be invested in new rapid-charging hubs so electric vehicle drivers are never more than 30 miles from a charging point.

There will be a freeze on the levy on electricity from April 2022, however the levy on gas will rise to help tackle the climate crisis. £300 million will be given to tackle nitrogen dioxide emissions in towns and cities that cause air pollution and £120 million will be available immediately to repair all defences damaged in the winter floods. There will be £800 million to establish two new carbon capture clusters by 2030, creating around 6,000 jobs in areas such as Merseyside or St Fergus in Scotland.

There is no denying there were other elements of the budget that provoked criticism from environmentalists. It was announced that £27 billion would be invested in building new roads, and the freeze on fuel-duty making it cheaper for people to buy petrol would be maintained.

Rebecca Newsom from Greenpeace commented: "The Chancellor has completely missed the opportunity to address the climate emergency. He's driving in the opposite direction.”

David Smith, chief executive of the Energy Networks Association commented: “The Chancellor clearly recognises the sheer scale of investment needed to deliver Net Zero by 2050. This Budget will help the UK transition to a much greener future, but it needs to be backed up by bold decisions in the forthcoming government Energy White Paper and the National Infrastructure Strategy. To deliver a Net Zero future, the government needs to support both investment and innovation across the whole energy system. Today’s news is good news, but now is the time to build on that.”

With that in mind, we await the outcome of the Energy Whitepaper which is expected at the end of March and further announcements expected at #COP26 in November in Glasgow.