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Sustainability sidelined in Autumn Statement

Concern and disappointment at an absence of measures to boost sustainable growth in the chancellor’s Autumn Statement have been voiced by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM).

The economic situation set out by Philip Hammond (pictured) was of a “resilient” economy despite forecasts that Government finances by 2020 will be £122bn worse off than previously expected.

The Government will prioritise “additional high-value investment” on infrastructure, which would be funded by additional borrowing, but he said nothing specifically about the waste sector.

Key points here in the BBC report

The CIWM’s new chief executive Dr Colin Church, until earlier this year a senior official at Defra, welcomed funding for innovation and infrastructure, but said he was disappointed that there were no details of a new industrial strategy.

“The CIWM is concerned that the chancellor’s speech made no reference to climate change-proofing future UK industry and infrastructure or to any imperative for low-carbon, ‘green’ growth.

“Sustainable growth is predicated on UK industry having access to a range of appropriate resources, and this includes the valuable secondary feedstock materials and energy products that the waste and resource management sector can deliver.

We still need more long-term strategic vision and detail at a national level

David Palmer-Jones, Suez

“It is to be hoped that somewhere in the emerging detail over the coming months, resource productivity will be clearly identified as one of the priorities, especially given the impact that volatile commodity markets and potential Brexit-related raw material price rises could have on UK plc. 

Extract from statement:

“Economic infrastructure (transport, energy, flood defences, water, waste and digital communications) is crucial for the economy and for people’s daily lives. The Government has put infrastructure at the heart of its economic strategy, and has set up the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) to provide expert advice on the country’s strategic infrastructure needs and independent recommendations on how to meet them.”

David Palmer-Jones, chief executive of Suez, said the statement recognised the vital roles that waste and water played in the UK economy, and was pleased that both resources were included in the NIC’s definition.

“We still need more long-term strategic vision and detail at a national level to ensure waste is treated fully as a resource for both secondary raw materials and energy, so that we in the private sector can continue to invest in the long-term infrastructure required to help transition the UK to a more fully circular economy, yielding more economic productivity and jobs creation,” he said.

Dustin Benton, acting deputy director of the Green Alliance, said most of the low-carbon announcements were “jam tomorrow”.

“Energy efficiency infrastructure did not get a mention, despite the headline that fossil fuel prices are now driving UK inflation. But the bigger picture is of overstretched public finances. If there is no money on the table, we should use smarter regulation to drive the investment in the low-carbon and resource-efficient infrastructure we’ll need for the future.”

This statement has done little else to demonstrate Government’s commitment to environment and sustainability issues. Could do better!

Martin Baxter, IEMA

James Court, head of policy and external affairs at the Renewable Energy Association, welcome the chancellor’s new funding for electric vehicles and charge point infrastructure across the UK, but said the initiative had to be “part-and-parcel of a wider shift to a higher-tech, lower-carbon world”.

“Decarbonising transport through electrification requires the decarbonisation of the electricity system as well,” he said.

“We look forward to reviewing the plans for the increased infrastructure spending through the NIC, which has made upgrading the power system to put flexibility and energy storage a pillar of its future work.”

R&WUK director general Steve Lee said he was pleased to see the commitment to infrastructure and to the work of the NIC and £23bn for a new productivity iInvestment fund.

“In the context of promoting growth, however, there was no mention of the forthcoming industrial strategy, and no reference to the important interplay between the economy and the environment.

”Sustainable growth must be viewed through a lens that takes account of future resource constraints and climate change impacts. Given that there is growing recognition of this imperative across the globe, it is disappointing not to see this reflected, at least at a high level, in today’s announcement.

“Our industry will hope to see a stronger focus on these issues in Defra’s 25 year Environment Plan and BEIS’ industrial strategy and this will be an area where R&WUK is concentrating its efforts.”

Martin Baxter, chief policy adviser to the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment, said the statement provided “some level of confidence for business”.

“We are looking to the Government to ensure that environment and sustainability skills are absolutely central to [the investment] programme. We are disappointed that this hasn’t thus far appeared to be prominent.

“We look forward to seeing this come through in the imminent industrial strategy, the emissions reduction plan and the 25-year environment plan. Having said that, this statement has done little else to demonstrate the Government’s commitment to environment and sustainability issues. Could do better!”

Kristian Dales, sales and marketing director at FCC Environment: 

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to making the UK an attractive place to do business, and believe tackling the country’s infrastructure challenges should be a national priority.

“We are encouraged to see the Government recognise the importance of waste in delivering a national infrastructure plan that works for Britain, which could enable our industry to deliver 50,000 new jobs and boost GDP by an additional £3bn.

“We would urge the Government to continue to foster its relationship with industry so that our sector can fully capitalise on its ability to improve the UK’s energy and resource security.”

 

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