Low-carbon energy policy: UK spending least among European nations

The UK spends less on low-carbon energy policies compared to other major European economies, according to analysis by Greenpeace. The data from the International Energy Agency for the three years from April 2020 to April 2023 shows that the UK spent approximately $33.3 billion (£26.2 billion) on low-carbon measures, the lowest among the top five European economies.

Italy spent the most at $111 billion, followed by Germany with $92.7 billion, France with $64.5 billion, and Spain with $51.3 billion. The analysis reveals that the UK’s per capita spending on low-carbon measures was also much lower than in France, Germany, and Italy when energy affordability measures were excluded.

The UK government is set to unveil its budget on Wednesday, and the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, is expected to focus on tax cuts.

This low spending on low-carbon energy policies in the UK, compared to other major European economies, comes at a time when there is growing awareness of the urgent need to address climate change and transition to a more sustainable energy system. The analysis by Greenpeace highlights a significant disparity in investment priorities between the UK and its European counterparts, particularly in areas such as electricity networks, energy efficiency, innovation in fuels and technology, low-carbon transport, and low-carbon electricity.

The data also underscores the broader context of the UK government’s approach to environmental and climate policies. While the government has committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the level of investment in low-carbon initiatives appears insufficient to meet this ambitious target. A study from the London School of Economics earlier this year suggested that a more substantial annual investment of approximately £26 billion in the low-carbon economy could not only reduce household bills but also attract private sector investment and stimulate economic growth more effectively than tax cuts.

Greenpeace’s call for a green industrial strategy and increased infrastructure investment echoes the broader discourse around the importance of a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Many experts argue that directing investments toward clean energy, sustainable infrastructure, and green technologies can not only contribute to environmental goals but also drive economic recovery, create jobs, and enhance the resilience of societies to future challenges.

The UK’s budget announcement provides an opportunity for the government to reconsider its investment priorities and allocate resources more substantially to low-carbon initiatives. As the world grapples with the impacts of climate change, there is an increasing recognition of the pivotal role that government spending can play in facilitating a transition to a more sustainable and resilient future. The level of commitment and allocation of resources in the budget will signal the government’s seriousness in addressing climate change and building a greener, more sustainable economy.

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