You can’t get nowt for nowt
We’d welcome many a speech drawing attention to the challenge of climate change and the need for massive public investment to meet it. Ideas signalled by George Osborne today might be music to the ears of spending departments.
It’s easy to pick on the detail, get bogged down in practicalities. The Green Investment Bank has drawn many positive comments. Osborne said: “Instead of the current system of multiple sources of Government funding for green investment projects, we will look to roll up these funds into a single bank that can leverage private sector investment and fund new green start-ups.” But we’re bound to ask how much new public funding is involved, how would it be capitalised, where from, and instead of what?
Some didn’t, but the TUC welcomed the Government’s green stimulus in Budget 2009. £405 million for new green investment was less than we wanted. But it has kicked the kind of start-ups Osborne refers to that Ed Miliband announced at Congress this year and on other platforms. Is that money now safe from austerity measures?
Last week, Greg Barker spoke of a £6,500 entitlement for every household to invest in energy efficiency. Frankly, it’s this level of ambition that will eat into domestic CO2 emissions that continue to rise. It’s too easy to trivialise this kind of idea, saying it would cost £169 billion (23 million households x £6,500). But, again, more clarity is needed on practicalities – how would Government recoup the investment, if that is the idea, how would it reach the 4.5m fuel poor, be managed, to what standards?
We offered some practical ways forward for this kind of scheme in our 2009 Budget submission. One of the fastest and most cost-efficient ways to combine economic stimulus with green initiatives is a major programme of home insulation, local authority-led, for 10 million homes that do not have these measures. It would cost £5bn. Rolling it out at £500m a year would create an additional 20,000 jobs.