The Autumn Statement delivered by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to much relief of the Prime Minister and the markets, was all over the subsequent weekend’s papers.
The Observer carried an apt headline ‘They Think it’s all Over’ in their Focus section, their main coverage of the Chancellor’s rescue package. We must continually remind ourselves that he is attempting to rescue the UK from his own party, such was the disastrous, thankfully brief, reign of Prime Minister Truss.
The Autumn Statement summarised
The UK Government is facing a £55bn hole in its finances. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) assesses that gross domestic product will fall by 1.3% next year. To mitigate these dreadful economic circumstances the Chancellor intends that the highest earners will pay top rate of tax from £125k instead of the present £150k.
Furthermore, the energy industry will be targeted with an expanded windfall tax of 35%, up from 25%, raising £14bn, a new energy efficiency taskforce will help people and businesses save money on energy bills backed by £6bn in new funding. The second round of Levelling Up Fund will invest a minimum of £1.7bn in local projects across the country, innovation funding will be protected with an increase to £20bn by 2024-5. The Chancellor wants to turn Britain into “the world’s next Silicon Valley.”
I leave you to judge how much progress we have made on our commitments from COP26.
Something missing from the Autumn Statement
The glaring omission from the Autumn Statement was any mention of extra investment in Renewable Energy and the UK’s commitment to cutting our greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Cast your mind back to COP26 in Glasgow where we gave commitments on expanding our greenhouse gas emission targets, reduce our methane emissions, provide extra finance for developing economies to aid their transition away from fossil fuels and contribute to organizing a Carbon market.
Commitments like these cost money as does the international commitment to holding the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C. Our Conservative politicians make commitments but when it looks like we must put our hands in our pockets as a country, they shy away from it. David Cameron, as prime minister in 2013, reportedly told aides to “get rid of all the green crap” from energy bills in an attempt to bring costs down. Cameron effectively presided over the end of onshore wind projects in England, cut solar subsidies and slashed energy efficiency schemes.
Carbon Brief is a website specialising on the science and policy of Climate Change, and their analysis in 2022 found that maintaining the green policies would have reduced energy costs by £8.3bn a year for the economy as a whole, which equates to a £150 a year per household. They also claim that rising bills will push two-thirds of UK households into fuel poverty by January 2023.
“Going green is the right way to have energy security”
Ed Miliband, the shadow climate change secretary said in March 2022: “The government said they were ‘cutting the green crap’ but it was a disaster – with bills for working families much higher as a result. This demonstrates once again that going green is the right way to have energy security, cut bills, and tackle climate change.”
“Cutting the so called ‘green crap’ has left UK households highly exposed to soaring global gas prices and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Energy efficiency and cheap renewables are the fastest and most effective way to cut gas imports and household bills.”Dr Simon Evans of Carbon Brief, who conducted the analysis
The number of homes having their lofts or cavity walls insulated each year dropped by 92% and 74% in 2013 respectively and has never recovered.
Now, where was that in the Autumn Statement?