Budget 2023: Hunt’s four Es still don’t include environment

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt presented the UK’s 2023 Budget to the House of Commons at Westminster this lunch time, again using alliteration to focus on the pillars of Enterprise, Education, Employment and Everywhere. 

The speech, which began at 12.30PM on Wednesday 15th March, included a number of major economic pledges, with the overall intention of promoting national growth. There was also an underlying message that the current approach to financial expenditure is ‘working’, with Britain now set to narrowly avoid a technical recession this year. 

a street sign on the side of a building

Plenty was said on energy, including an extension of the residential price cap on bills for another three months. However, critics argue this only represents another plaster, rather than a real answer to the problem, and energy efficiency improvements should have been prioritised. 

‘The Chancellor’s focus on energy security, energy bill support and devolution is a welcome statement of intent — but we’re worried the measures themselves miss the mark. Extending the Energy Price Guarantee for a further three months offers consumers a vital but brief reprieve from sky-high energy bill,’ said Jason Torrance, Interim Chief Executive of UK100.

‘However, Jeremy Hunt has let slip another golden opportunity to embrace a targeted, long-term solution,’ he continued. ‘For too long, the Government has overlooked the importance of energy efficiency. Our End the wait. Insulate. report sets out an oven-ready, cost-neutral plan for a local-led energy efficiency drive to alleviate pressure on the most vulnerable – and it won’t cost the earth.’

Energy efficiency – which has direct environmental benefits through a reduction in waste and consumption – was mentioned elsewhere, though. In addition to the recent creation of a National Energy Efficiency Taskforce, the Climate Change Agreement Scheme will expand. This means an additional £600m will be available to businesses for energy efficiency improvements. 

Some have also expressed disappointment that the budget failed to address the slow uptake of electric vehicles (EV), which poses a huge risk to climate targets. While duty on fuel has been frozen, there are no plans to change VAT on EV charging. Currently, tax on using public charge points is 20%, while home infrastructure incurs just 5%.

‘Today the Chancellor missed a crucial moment to ensure the UK keeps pace with Europe and the US in the race to net zero. This statement was an opportunity to slash the ludicrous VAT differential… an unfair and outdated policy hindering EV uptake among those without driveways,’ said Quentin Wilson, founder of the FairCharge campaign group. ‘It’s enormously disappointing to see this low-cost intervention once again brushed aside. This is a huge policy failure and the mass adoption of EVs in the UK is being sabotaged by archaic Treasury policy.’

Keen to point out the UK is considered a world leader in renewables, and proudly trumpeting that 90% of solar power in the UK was installed in the past 13 years – since the current government took office, in one form or another – Hunt also laid out plans for a new aspect of the country’s net zero plan. £20bn will now be allocated to the early development of carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) across the country.

Projects in east England, Merseyside, and North Wales have been earmarked, although no firm details were revealed. Up to 50,000 new jobs could be created, and 20m to 30m tonnes of CO2 captured every 12 months. However, critics have already pointed out this investment amounts to just £1bn per year for two decades, far short of the £30bn estimates suggest we need annually to each carbon neutrality. 

Fuelling more environmental concerns, a significant nuclear expansion was also announced, with incentives to invest in the sector set to match those for renewables and the creation of a new body, Great British Nuclear, to increase future opportunities. The first ever competition for small modular reactors will also begin soon, and complete this year. If proved viable, the technology will then have guaranteed co-funding from the public purse. 

‘Backing expensive technologies like carbon capture, and storage and a new nuclear programme, while still blocking cheap onshore wind in England and failing to properly insulate the UK’s energy leaking homes, will leave the UK hooked on high energy costs and falling behind in the global race to benefit from the transition to greener economies,’ said Mike Childs, Head of Policy at Friends of the Earth.

‘With industries such as steel, increasingly viewing hydrogen as the energy source of the future, the development of carbon capture and storage is now less critical than it once was. CCS is starting to look like a technology aimed at prolonging the life of the fossil fuel industry – funded by the taxpayer and higher bills,’ he continued. ‘This budget will do nothing to close the glaring gaps in the UK’s failing climate plans which were found to be unlawful by the High Court last year. When it comes to the environment, this government isn’t working.’


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top