• by Karma Loveday

Chancellor under fire for Defra budget cuts as he unveils new green plans


Philip Hammond announced a review on the economics of biodiversity as part of his Spring Statement last Wednesday.

The Chancellor (pictured) described: “A new global review, led by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta, to assess the economic value of biodiversity and to identify actions that will simultaneously enhance biodiversity and deliver economic prosperity. The review will report in 2020, ahead of the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity in Beijing in October that year.”

Conservative MP Rebecca Pow praised the plan to link the decline of biodiversity with the economy, commenting the new review “could do for biodiversity what the Stern review did for climate change”.

Other green measures the chancellor announced were a Future Homes Standard by 2025, “future-proofing new build homes with low carbon heating and world-leading levels of energy efficiency” and increasing the proportion of green gas in the grid.

However, he came under fire for slashing budgets at DEFRA, the Environment Agency and Natural England while making the new green announcements.

Mary Creagh chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, challenged: “The DEFRA budget has been cut by 35% over the past eight years, so while I welcome what the chancellor has said on the future homes standard, which is genuinely new and innovative, he cannot expect the people in Natural England and the Environment Agency to keep doing more with less while enduring a pay freeze—a 15% real-terms pay cut over the past 10 years.”

Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “We have 11 years to avoid climate breakdown, and protected species are in freefall. I have one test for him to prove whether he is remotely serious about the agenda: will he reverse the savage funding cuts that his government have made to Natural England—yes or no?”

Elsewhere in the Spring Statement, Hammond announced the Competition and Markets Authority would carry out a review to assess how regulation affects competition in the UK business environment. He said: “I do think it is quite important that we ensure that the UK’s regulatory environment is at the cutting edge of the changes that are going on in the 21st-century economy. Regulation is one of our competitive advantages. We have excellent regulators, and there are plenty of examples of the UK being ahead of the global curve in setting regulations that can both protect the public and encourage investment.”


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