Tony Juniper: A missed opportunity to tackle emissions

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The Independent Online

The Chancellor's new 50 per cent tax levied on banks paying bonuses to their employees above £25,000 will certainly be popular. After all, a large part of the reason we are in this economic hole is down to risk-taking encouraged by grotesque remuneration packages.

Action on bonuses is welcome, but we need wider action to bring about the structural changes to the UK economy that are needed to reduce our over-reliance on financial services. One priority must be to build strength in manufacturing, engineering and research and development.

If that could be done through policies designed to encourage low-carbon development, then we would hit several public policy priorities at once – financial stability, economic recovery, energy security, job creation and major carbon emissions reductions among them.

While it was very encouraging to see the proposals for a boiler scrappage scheme, and for £200m more for insulation, and although it is positive that there was a small step for electric cars and modest incentives for some forms of renewable power, it is regrettable that the Chancellor didn't go much further.

Some ideas on what he might have done were presented earlier this week in the second report of the Green New Deal (GND) group. The authors proposed major public investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies at a scale way beyond that set out yesterday. They estimate that £10bn invested in "green quantitative easing" for energy efficiency could create 60,000 jobs while reducing emissions by 3.96 megatonnes of CO2 each year.

The group proposed that £50bn is committed to these kinds of priorities, as part of a joined-up stimulus package. We need to urgently reduce emissions, while restructuring our economy. The economic downturn gives us a unique opportunity to think big and to make change – it's a shame that the opportunity has not yet been seized.

Tony Juniper is an independent environmental adviser and the Green Party's general election candidate for Cambridge