A Green Budget? Not today
Commenting on today’s draft Scottish Budget, FoES Chief Executive Duncan McLaren said:
“Times are hard, but cutting back on investments in emissions reduction – such as housing improvement – means cutting back on gains in health, well-being and the economy. These gains would be worth far more than the direct costs of the policies.
“The Scottish Government has made some very poor choices – increasing capital spend where the economic benefits are questionable and the environmental damage serious, and cutting it where both economic and environmental gains could be obtained.
“We call on MSPs of all parties to scrutinise both the budget and the climate change plans closely so as to ensure the best outcomes for Scotland from a re-balanced package of investment which creates jobs, cuts emissions and improves health.”
Assessment against key pledges
Friends of the Earth Scotland called for a series of six key budget pledges which would ensure that the budget could be considered green. Below we assess the budget against these proposals:
1. Commitment to the spending necessary to deliver Scotland’s climate targets – and the associated health, social and economic benefits that will arise from meeting those targets.
Assessment: The security of funding for the measures in the report on policies and proposals (RPP) is unclear in most respects. A small part (£17m) of the promised £70 million national renewables infrastructure fund is to be spent in 2011-12. But other critical budgets such as those for housing energy efficiency appear to have been cut.
2. Targeted spending on climate to maximise associated health, social and economic benefits – including at least £100m a year on housing improvement, and 10% of the transport budget for active travel.
Assessment: There is a serious cut in the level of spend on sustainability in housing – down by almost £20 million. This reflects figures in the RPP which suggest a halving in the level of ambition for home insulation. The spend on active travel increases by £4 million to £25 million (still less than 1.5% of the total transport budget).
3. Commitment to maintain a high level of capital investment, but with careful targeting – cutting major road schemes such as the additional Forth Crossing and Aberdeen Bypass to secure investments in public transport and improved housing.
Assessment: Capital spend on road building has been increased by £32m, while capital spend on rail is to be cut by £20 million. Such a shift will increase climate emissions, while providing very limited if any economic benefits.
4. Establishment of a strategic climate fund for public bodies – alongside clear direction that all local authorities will be expected to meet national climate emissions reduction targets.
Assessment: No new funding, and no guarantees on emissions cuts are included in the funding deal offered to local authorities.
5. Improved ‘carbon assessment’ of the budget, which no longer systematically underestimates government responsibility for emissions in agriculture and road transport.
Assessment: The carbon assessment methodology has not been changed.
6. Establishment of a ‘Behaviour Change’ fund, building on the success of the Climate Challenge Fund, of at least £12.5m a year, and an Adaptation fund to support communities in the developing world, of at least £9m a year in addition to the existing aid budget.
Assessment: there is a small increase of £1m proposed in the CCF, raising it to £10.3m, but a directly offsetting cut in the Sustainability Action Fund.
For more information please contact:
Per Fischer, Press Office, Friends of the Earth Scotland
t: 0131 243 2719
Notes to Editors
For the second year in a row, a carbon assessment will be published alongside the budget, a requirement under the Climate Change Act. Last year the assessment excluded emissions arising from the use of infrastructure funded by the Scottish budget, and attributed agricultural emissions arising from subsidies paid to Scottish farmers to the EU budget, rather than the Scottish budget.
The spending plans and the Climate Act’s Report on Proposals and Policies (RPP) will both be subject to Parliamentary consideration until the New Year.
Friends of the Earth Scotland exists to help people in Scotland look after the planet for everyone’s future. We think globally and act locally in Scotland, delivering solutions to climate change by enabling and empowering people to take both individual and collective action. We offer help to people with the big things in life – helping to sustain a healthy society and environment. We believe that all of our children’s futures will be better because of what we do. www.foe-scotland.org.uk