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Autumn Statement: WWF reaction

Responding to the Government’s Autumn Statement, WWF-UK expressed dismay with the Government's continuing to prioritise high carbon infrastructure over renewables and energy efficiency. WWF also said that, whilst infrastructure spending was essential in boosting growth, failing to invest in low-carbon and renewable energy infrastructure represented a missed opportunity.

Margaret Ounsley, head of public affairs at WWF-UK said: “It's deeply disappointing to see this Government continuing to see environmental protection as a burden and rewarding high carbon infrastructure. This is a myopic, short term strategy.

“The Government has a clear choice: take the opportunity and invest in the green economy, tackling both the economic and the climate crisis as one, or risk hard-won environmental improvements in the pursuit of short-term growth.”

Habitats Directive

On proposed changes to the Habitats Directive, Margaret Ounsley said: "Reviewing the Habitats Regulations will open a can of worms not just in the UK but across the EU. The protections they provide are essential for internationally important sites and Europe's most threatened species. Weakening them is not only unnecessary for growth but ultimately incompatible with long-term sustainable development.

“Only a few months ago the Government's Natural Environment White Paper called for the proper valuation of our biodiversity and eco-systems, but the announcement today on top of existing planning reforms suggests that the Government is happy to sacrifice the environment for short-term economic growth"

Energy infrastructure

WWF said that today’s drive by the Prime Minister to boost renewable investment 1 was laudable, but warned that investment certainty for the clean energy sector, especially renewables, held the key to maximising the economic benefits of the clean energy sector.

Nick Molho, head of energy policy at WWF-UK, said: “The benefits of investing in the clean energy sector are huge and could result in substantial job creation for the UK. The wind and marine renewable energy sectors alone could generate from 44,000 to 115,000 new jobs within the next 10 years.

“Recent evidence shows that there is a record amount of savings available in the UK which is currently attracting poor interest rates and could instead provide vital low cost capital to the clean energy sector.”

Energy Intensive Users

On the compensation package for energy intensive users, WWF said that the data used to justify compensation should be transparent and that any financial assistance should be directed to those sectors genuinely at risk of lack of competitiveness and be proportionate to any concerns identified.

Nick Molho said: “Any tax break for energy intensive users should be based on evidence that our industry is at risk of competitive disadvantage – the Government shouldn’t just cave into lobbying by industry. Any money spent this way should also be prioritised to promote energy efficiency, helping reduce energy costs and emissions for industry in the long-term. Failure to do this won’t be a good use of taxpayers’ money.”

Transport

On announcements in the Statement regarding transport, Jean Leston, senior transport policy advisor at WWF-UK, said: "Freezing fuel duty may temporarily help cash-strapped motorists but will do nothing to help reduce our vulnerability to oil price hikes in the future. Planning for low carbon transport infrastructure, by investing more in electric vehicles and public transportation, is key for reducing our vulnerability to fossil fuel prices and providing long-term protection to both our economy and the environment.”

Notes to editors

1. DECC: PM backs wind investment drive, 28 November 2011: http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/news/pn11_102/pn11_102.aspx

For further information, please contact:
George Smeeton, Tel: 01483 412 388, Mob: 07917 052 948, email: GSmeeton@wwf.org.uk





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