Budget 2014: Climate Mitigation RIP

  • Date: 20/03/14
  • Andrew Lilico, City A.M.

George Osborne’s budget message is clear: in a time of austerity, and with international energy security disturbed, the priority is cheap abundant energy, not cutting down on energy use to limit CO2 emissions.  Mitigation RIP.

Four key things strike me about the 2014 Budget. First, George Osborne stuck to his plan. Osborne’s Budgets will be remembered for two things: slow, steady, drawn-out spending cuts, bearing down gradually upon the government’s huge deficit; and a large rise in the income tax personal allowance. Both aspects were reflected in yesterday’s Budget speech. [...]

The third key feature is the death of whatever was left of the UK government’s feeble attempts to persuade anyone we can and will prevent climate change by limiting CO2 emissions. Osborne changed the carbon tax system and introduced a set of subsidies for those that use a great deal of energy. The overall mix is now a nonsense – imposing levies which are offset by subsidies – and will surely be rationalised soon. But the message is clear: in a time of austerity, and with international energy security disturbed (Iran, Russia, Venezuela), the priority is cheap abundant energy, not cutting down on energy use to limit CO2 emissions.

That is simply a recognition of political reality. When China and the US rejected further moves to limit CO2 emissions at Copenhagen, international coordination of CO2 control died. And in a time of economic hardship, with the press full of stories of how the surface temperature of the globe hasn’t risen for nearly 20 years, the UK public appetite for making green sacrifices is exhausted. Mitigation RIP.

The question now is: since we are not going to prevent climate change, how can we adapt to it? Osborne’s £200m potholes-mending budget, announced yesterday, somehow does not seem proportionate to the challenge. We’ll hear more on this topic anon.

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