• Chancellor lowers taxes on North Sea oil and gas industry
  • Budget described as `climate-wrecking' by Green Party lawmaker

U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s statement on Wednesday that his new budget “puts the next generation first” isn’t enough to protect subsequent generations from the consequences of climate change, critics said.

Just three months after the U.K. joined 195 other countries in a climate deal in a bid to restrain rising global temperatures by curbing emissions, Osborne’s budget cut taxes on the oil and gas industry and preserved a freeze on fuel taxes for motorists. He also scrapped a carbon tax for businesses like Tesco Plc and raised a climate change levy that applies to electricity from renewables as well as from fossil fuels.

“This climate-wrecking budget shows that the government’s talk of putting the next generation first is nothing short of sheer hypocrisy,” said Caroline Lucas, the only Green Party lawmaker. “This budget locks us into fossil fuel dependency and completely contradicts the Prime Minister’s call to action at the Paris climate talks. His plans to cut tax for North Sea oil and gas –- rather than investing in a just transition away from fossil fuels –- are myopic and dangerous.”

At the Paris talks in December, Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech in which he imagined leaders telling their grandchildren why they had failed to arrest climate change. “Instead of making excuses tomorrow to our children and grandchildren, we should be taking action against climate change today,” he said. 

Offshore Wind

The net effect of scrapping the carbon tax and increasing the climate change levy is to raise 460 million pounds ($648 million) for the government by March 2021, according to Treasury documents. The freeze in fuel duty for a sixth successive year will save the average driver 75 pounds, Osborne said.

“The budget is remarkable not so much for what’s in it, but for what’s not,” said Ecotricity Group Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Dale Vince. “The chancellor forgot to mention a little thing called climate change.”

Osborne did offer some encouragement to those who support carbon reductions, by saying the government will auction 730 million pounds of electricity contracts to offshore wind and other less-advanced renewable energy technologies during the current 5-year Parliamentary term. The first auction later this year will total 290 million pounds, according to the Treasury.

“The budget is tight but we’re up for the challenge,” said Maf Smith, deputy chief executive officer of the ReneweableUK lobby group. “We’re confident that today’s announcement will deliver 3.5 gigawatts of new offshore wind capacity between 2021 and 2025.”

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