Chancellor’s Autumn Statement is “too little too late”

Environmental campaigners say investment is too late and fails to tackle key climate issues
01 December 2022 , Kerry Taylor-Smith

CIEH cautiously welcomes announcements but calls for more clarity, including how the £6 billion energy efficiency funding will be spent

Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt's energy plans are ‘too little, too late’ warn environmental campaigners who say the Autumn Statement failed to tackle the climate and cost-of-living crises and jeopardises the government’s target of achieving net zero by 2050.

A targeted £26 billion cost-of-living support package, including continued energy support and an energy price guarantee from April 2023, was announced alongside £6 billion between 2025 and 2028 for an Energy Efficiency Taskforce (EETF) to insulate homes and upgrade boilers.

However, critics argue the Chancellor isn’t addressing the climate and nature crises, and that investment is too late for those already struggling with rising costs.

“Kicking the can down the road on home insulation for another two years means millions of people will continue to suffer cold homes and sky-high energy bills, says Mike Childs, Head of Policy, Friends of the Earth.A nationwide energy efficiency drive is essential, but the Chancellor’s proposals are far too little and far too late.

Ross Matthewman, Head of Policy and Campaigns at CIEH adds: “While CIEH cautiously welcome a number of the announcements made in the Autumn Statement, we wish to see greater clarity on some of the key aspects.”

This includes how the £6 billion energy efficiency funding will be spent, what measures will be prioritised, and who will form part of the new EETF. “We remain in the dark as to how effective this spending commitment will be,” Matthewman says.

A properly coordinated energy efficiency programme can boost jobs, skills and growth in local economies and get us on the path to net zero.

Philip Dunne, chair of the Commons Environmental Audit Commission welcomed extra funds but with 19 million homes in need of an upgrade, it’s no easy feat, he says, describing the government’s current approach as piecemeal and nowhere near sufficient.A properly coordinated energy efficiency programme can boost jobs, skills and growth in local economies and get us on the path to net zero, he says.

The government have since pledged an additional £1 billion to support a rollout of insulation measures directed at homes in the lowest energy efficiency bands and low council tax bands in England, Scotland and Wales from Spring 2023.

To improve energy efficiency and lower bills, Hunt pledged to reduce the UK’s final energy consumption from buildings and industry by 15% by 2030. He also expects to raise £25 billion through an increase in the Energy Profits Levy and a new tax on the extraordinary profits of electricity generators.

However, the 45% windfall tax applied to profits of renewable energy generators is higher than the 25-35% for oil and gas drillers. While the latter can reclaim this tax if they invest in the UK, renewable energy producers cannot.

“This windfall tax on low carbon power risks deterring investment, at a time when the Chancellor should be incentivising clean energy,” says Dan McGrail, Chief Executive of trade body, RenewableUK.

Childs says the increase is welcome, but undermined by the Chancellor’s failure to close the loophole that allows fossil fuel firms to avoid paying most of it if they invest in more gas and oil.

The Chancellor also confirmed Sizewell C, which will produce low-carbon electricity for six million homes for 50 years, will proceed. However, it will destroy an area the size of 900 football pitches along the Suffolk coastline say The Wildlife Trusts.

Elliot Chapman-Jones, Head of Public Affairs at The Wildlife Trusts believes “the Chancellor passed the buck on dealing with the climate and nature crises, and used the budget to launch a tax raid on renewables and electric vehicles.” These will no longer be exempt from vehicle excise duty from April 2025, which he says could deter those considering EVs.

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