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Low carbon UK is well down the pecking order

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 17 September 2009 at 11:35 am

How much does the government really care about shifting the UK to a low carbon economy? Not a lot is the only conclusion I can come to from its spending figures.

Yesterday's Guardian published a wonderfully simple, easy to read, chart called the definitive atlas of UK government spending, created by economics editor Larry Elliott. It shows, department by department, where the £620.685 billion the government spends on our behalf goes.

At DECC (the department of Energy and Climate Change) the majority of its £2.1bn budget is spent on nuclear decommissioning (£1.7bn). In contrast, £0.7bn is allocated to low-carbon Britain; £0.08bn to clean energy; and £0.008bn to the international deal on climate change. Over at Defra (the department for environment, food and rural affairs) there's another £0.02bn allocated to climate change.

So, we're spending more than twice as much decommissioning a so-called clean energy source, than we are in developing a response to the twin threats of climate change and energy insecurity. Interesting...

It's not that long since we heard a lot of talk about a green new deal which would help us out of the triple crisis we found ourselves in: financial meltdown; accelerating climate change; and peak oil production leading to rising oil prices.

So let's compare the spending on the climate and energy side of things with what the government has spent on the financial bail out:

Recapitalising RBS & Lloyds £36.9bn
Financial services compensation scheme £21bn
Northern Rock £18.8bn
Bradford & Bingley £10.4bn
Dunfermline debt £1.6bn
Icesave debt £0.8bn
Kaupthing statutory debt £0.6bn
Leading to a staggering total spending on financial stability of £85.5bn

OK, a major crisis leads to monopoly-money spending. But let's learn from that, and invest now to stave off a similar crisis down the line fuelled (if that's the right word) by our inability to take climate change and peak oil seriously. We still have time to invest in decarbonising our economy, but is it afforded the priority in needs amid all the current clamour for cuts?

Thank you to Larry Elliott for making the spending picture so accessible.

Photo by austinevan


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