Philip Hammond seems to have forgotten his own Government’s pledge to leave fossil fuels in the ground

In December 2016, the Government said that 70-75 per cent of the world’s coal, oil and gas reserves must stay in the ground. In the Budget, the Chancellor said it is absolutely essential that we maximise the exploitation of remaining reserves’. The world’s oil needs to stay in the ground. Just not ours eh?

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The Independent Online

“We will not saddle our children with ever-increasing debts”, the Chancellor said in yesterday’s Budget, adding it was “the only responsible course of action”.

It would have been great if he’d continued this theme by promising not to saddle children with air so poisonous that they’re growing up with stunted lungs. Or saying it was irresponsible to leave the world’s children with a climate so altered that flood, drought and crop failure are a routine blight on their life chances, not an unlikely extreme.

These are urgent problems. Children’s health. A liveable planet. But Hammond didn’t act on either.

Philip Hammond defends his maiden Budget

On air pollution, almost nothing. No scrappage scheme for the oldest, dirtiest diesels, and no tax increase on the sale of new ones. A big fund to tackle congestion – but on past form this will go to more road building. Some welcome funding for batteries, but this won’t deal with the acute problems right now. A real-terms fall in the tax disc for HGVs, saving them £50m. My kids, your kids, anyone with asthma, or heart disease – all of us – will have to keep on waiting for adequate action on the UK’s illegally toxic air.

On climate change, worse than nothing. Back in December, the Government said that 70-75 per cent of the world’s coal, oil and gas reserves must stay in the ground, to tackle climate change, to do the minimum to meet the international Paris Agreement targets we signed just a month earlier. In this Budget, the complete opposite – the Chancellor said it is absolutely essential that we maximise the exploitation of remaining reserves”, and lined up yet another set of tax breaks for more North Sea Oil Exploration. The world’s oil needs to stay in the ground. Just not ours eh? And on the flip side – nothing to boost renewable energy, nothing to boost energy saving, nothing to cut our use of oil instead of producing more.

This is doubly inexcusable from Hammond, on two grounds. First, on climate change – he gets it. He knows just how serious and urgent it is – you can see it in the speeches he made as Foreign Secretary. You can see why Donald Trump won’t act on climate – just for starters he thinks it’s a Chinese hoax. But our Chancellor knows the stakes, and still won’t act. To know how urgent this is, and yet not act, not face down powerful industries?

Second, he rightly wants to make the UK a place fit for new 21st Century industries and businesses. Yet he keeps propping up 20th century industry – an oil sector which apparently still needs tax breaks after four decades, a car industry many parts of which seem to put more effort into evading emissions controls than cleaning up their act. And he is still holding back many of the UK’s growing, clean industries – for example there was nothing to stop the latest attack on the solar industry with the imminent business tax hike. He’s betting on a wheezing, faltering set of nags, while trying to hold the whizzy colts back.

The only good news is that green technologies like renewables and electric vehicles are growing so fast globally that they’re unstoppable. The only question is the speed this change happens at. 

With his knowledge of the urgency of these problems, the Chancellor must get it right in the next Budget – for our children’s health, our economy’s strength, and for our planet’s future.  

Simon Bullock is Senior climate change campaigner at Friends of the Earth

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