Budget 2015: Our political leaders just spent 35 seconds on the issue that could wipe us all out within 100 years

Although it's not surprising: our "greenest government ever" has already spent 300 times more on fossil fuels than renewables

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The Independent Online

Want to learn how to do magic? Just watch George Osborne’s budget speech. As the chancellor knows all too well, It’s all about deception.

While we’re watching all the little bunnies popping out of the hat – help for first-time buyers, cuts to taxes on savings, drops in beer duties – the conjurer makes the elephant in the room disappear. It’s a trick that should get him an honorary admission to the Magic Circle.

In fact it was even better than that. It was not one elephant but two, the two big unmentionables of this budget – one is our right to free healthcare, the other the threat our very existence as a species.

The first was immediately seized upon by Ed Miliband, who called potential Tory plans to make massive NHS cuts “the plan that dare not speak its name.” But it's the second omission that is even more glaring and even more deadly: climate change.

It was a subject which, despite the fact that it could spell the end to civilisation as we know it within the next hundred years, received only 35 seconds of coverage in a debate lasting nearly one and a half hours. Most of this depressingly brief time came from Ed Miliband pointing out its absence, even less was spent offering alternatives.

Our government has spent 300 times more on fossil fuels than renewables, so it should come as no surprise that the most notable environmental references in this budget were to shooting Labour foxes, a fitting Tory pastime in more ways than one. In fact the only time fossil fuels were mentioned was in conjunction with tax breaks and schemes to support them.


In as clear a statement as you could wish from the “greenest government ever” George Osborne said: “We back oil and gas” as he announced tax allowances and cuts totalling £1.3bn worth of support for the UK’s fossil fuel industry. Thus, at a time when we should be looking for ways to cut our ties to fossil fuels, Osborne is doing everything in his power to bind us more tightly to them.

At a time when scientists state that the world cannot risk releasing more than a fifth of the CO2 trapped in current fossil fuel reserves, let alone seek out new ones, Osborne announced further government investment to do just that – to seek out new reserves of oil and gas.

Where was the fiscal stimulus for renewable energy? Where was even a nominal glance of support to developing a greener economy that could, according to one report, create one million new jobs – jobs which aren’t, presumably, based on zero-hours contracts as many of the ones bolstering the government’s employment figures are. There was just one single plan mentioned to build a tidal lagoon near Swansea, but it is too little and sadly probably too late.

Pre-election budgets are notoriously short-sighted. We’re all too busy looking at the rabbits popping out of the hat. But in a world facing an existential threat from climate change, this could well be a budget we look back on in 50 years time and say "what on earth were we thinking?".