Yesterday the UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, unveiled the 2021 Budget and Spending Review.
It was an event rich in buzzwords and slogans, with building back better, building back greener, Global Britain, levelling up and many more all making an appearance.
Perhaps this is no bad thing given the various generational challenges these phrases allude to; issues including COVID, regional inequality and, of course, climate change.
But were the buzzwords backed up by real substance?
Well, there were certainly plenty of eye-catching announcements with billions in extra funding for the NHS, business rate cuts and a major reform to alcohol duties. And while some will argue the government could have gone further, others will point to the fact that taxes are rising to their highest levels since the 1950s.
Of course, we know why you're really here. You're wondering what all this means for the climate crisis, and how well the Budget set the tone ahead of the all-important COP26 conference. Particularly as the flagship Budget speech itself was woefully short of new announcements on climate, leaving out measures already announced in its run up or as part of the recent Net Zero Strategy.
So let’s take a look under the bonnet at how funding to fight the climate crisis fared - firstly by taking a broad view across the wider economy, before honing in on the core climate and travel-related announcements.
Thinking outside the box
The challenge of the climate crisis is so immense that we need to fire on absolutely all cylinders if we’re to achieve the emissions reductions required to limit warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
This means thinking outside the box to examine sectors which may not feel obviously related to emissions or the climate.
For example, the government announced that spending on overseas aid will not return to its pre-pandemic level of 0.7% of GNI until at least 2024. The UK’s overseas aid budget funds numerous projects supporting carbon reduction and climate resilience in developing countries. So this feels like an enormous missed opportunity given the international leadership the UK needs to be showing as host of COP26.
On the other hand, £24bn has been earmarked for new housing, with brownfield sites prioritised. The UK has a serious housing shortage, so if we can build efficient new homes close to where people work, this means fewer unnecessary long commutes. Evidence also shows that more densely populated areas (aka cities, which is where most brownfield sites are) enable lower emissions by encouraging walking and public transport use, and utilising more energy-efficient flats instead of detached houses.