Which planet is the Chancellor living on?

Government spending plans are failing to scale up the climate emergency response

The Chancellor’s Spending Review doesn’t take the climate and ecological emergency remotely seriously. In the reality of what this acutely political Spending Review actually is – and isn’t – it’s hardly a surprise. In the big picture of a planet on fire, it’s a disgrace.

But the lack of any meaningful attempt even to dress up the spending plans as useful for the climate crisis – never mind actually spend cash any differently – is mostly simply the latest example of the gulf between ministers’ headline commitments to cutting carbon and the tangible reality of actually doing anywhere near enough about it.

Ahead of the Spending Review the country’s biggest environmental NGOs wrote to the Chancellor asking him to more than double (to 2% of GDP) the money being spent on cutting carbon – at least. That’s the kind of thing that Government spending plans should be doing. But it wasn’t really on the cards, not in this Spending Review at least. Not only is it a Review designed to gird the public for an election, but it doesn’t really unleash much new cash on very much at all; it only covers a year, and because it hasn’t been done alongside a new Budget, it means there’s no new capital money to lay out.

The Prime Minister has stressed that climate action is at the absolute core” of his programme for government. It’s possible he doesn’t define the core’ in the conventional way. The gravity of the climate crisis and the unprecedented acceleration in the government response to it that is needed both imply that the fundamental purpose of any government spending plan should be to help scale up the climate response. Closing this dissonance is precisely why NEF and others are calling for a Green New Deal – a major new programme of state-led investment in green jobs around the country, particularly for the places and communities that most need it. As we recently wrote, you need a completely new approach to the fiscal rules’ that govern things like Spending Reviews if you’re to seriously funnel cash into a Green New Deal.

Quite simply, a spending review that took climate breakdown seriously would be one that was actually specifically about taking climate breakdown seriously. The narratives and speeches around budgets and spending reviews are always creatures of politics; the story that is woven about upon what the government of the day will lavish its largesse is at least as important as the actual figures within. A great deal is revealed about priorities by the things that aren’t mentioned. It all contrasts starkly with what’s going on in Scotland. The Scottish Government’s new business plans have responding to the climate emergency as its top line, with a welter of new initiatives to help cut carbon (even if the blind spot of North Sea oil production remains unaddressed).

The Chancellor’s story wasn’t one about climate emergency. Hardly surprising that his figures weren’t either.

Image: Pixabay

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