Chancellor Phillip Hammond in his spring statement has pledged to “build sustainability into the heart of our economic model”, and argued that “there is an economic as well as an environmental case for protecting the diversity of the natural world”.
His speech to the Commons referenced a desire to “tackle the scourge of plastic waste defacing our countryside and choking our oceans”.
He said the Government was “consulting on new taxes and regulatory measures” to do so. The Treasury is currently consulting on a tax on plastic products containing less than 30% recycled material.
He said the Government will launch a comprehensive global review of the link between biodiversity and economic growth, led by professor Sir Partha Dasgupta, emeritus professor of economics at Cambridge University.
Hammond mentioned climate change for the first time in a spring statement: “We must apply the creativity of the marketplace to deliver solutions to one of the most complex problems of our time: climate change. And build sustainability into the heart of our economic model.”
The Government has also said it wants to ensure that wildlife is not compromised when delivering infrastructure – presumably including waste and recycling plants – and housing. It plans to mandate net gains for biodiversity on new developments in England to deliver an overall increase in biodiversity.
A consultation on infrastructure finance was published, looking at how the Government can support private investment after Brexit. Government commitment to publishing a comprehensive national infrastructure strategy was confirmed.
A desire to help small businesses reduce their carbon emissions and energy use, and a plan to launch a call for evidence on a business energy efficiency scheme, was announced. The statement also revealed plans to advance the decarbonisation of gas supplies by increasing the amount of green gas in the grid.
While there an audible shout of “rubbish” from the benches during this part of his speech to the Commons, Hammond said: “The UK is already leading the world, reducing the carbon intensity of our economy faster than any other G20 country, with ambitions and legally binding targets for the future.”
The statement also called to give people the option to travel ‘zero carbon’, and the Government is launching a call for evidence on offsetting transport emissions to look at consumer understanding of their journeys’ emissions. This may have an impact on the metal scrap sector if it accelerates the move to more energy-efficient vehicles.
David Palmer-Jones, chief executive, Suez Recycling and Recovery UK
“Putting environmental concerns at the heart of taxation policy is the right strategy if we are to create a sustainable economy which lasts not just a few parliamentary cycles, but into the lifetimes of our grandchildren. We welcome taxation policy which aims to conserve our planet’s finite natural resources.
”The chancellor’s efforts to improve biodiversity are all linked to an increasingly joined up strategy across Government departments to introduce regulations that incentivise businesses and consumers to move towards a more sustainable economy. The latest moves from the Treasury are all linked to the Government’s desire to place Britain among the world leaders for sustainability and eradicating waste.
”Revenues raised to tackle environmental issues should be used to enable further investment towards the infrastructure needed to underpin a circular economy, and address among other matters single-use plastics, waste and litter.
“The efforts to tackle biodiversity follow the Treasury’s consultation to tackle single-use plastics, via a tax on virgin plastics, and other live consultations from Defra which include radical proposals to introduce co-ordinated waste management systems in the UK paid for by manufacturers’ producer responsibility schemes.
”The Treasury is right to use the taxation system to help change the way we produce and consume products and packaging, helping us to recycle as much as possible and to reduce the impact of waste on the natural environment.”
Paul Taylor, chief executive, FCC Environment
“The chancellor has made announcements on several important environmental issues in his spring statement, including the Government’s efforts to meet carbon targets. However, it is disappointing that there appears to be a disconnect between the strategic direction outlined in the recently published resources and waste strategy and the environmental priorities set out by the chancellor’s statement, which made no mention of the importance of meeting waste and recycling targets.
“We have seen far-reaching and bold ambition from the Government in the waste strategy but, if we are to fulfil our ambition to be the most resource-efficient country in the world, we need to act now to set out in statute a waste policy framework that is fit for the future.”