Absence of nature’s recovery in today’s Autumn Statement puts future prosperity at risk
Today the Government published its Autumn Statement. While The Wildlife Trusts are pleased that the Government remains fully committed to the UK’s climate obligations, including a 68% reduction in our own emissions, it is still not on track to meet this target and its actions in other areas undermine their promise.
The chancellor has failed to listen to experts warning that our unsustainable engagement with nature is putting future prosperity at risk. Of particular concern, are the HS2 and Sizewell C major infrastructure projects.
Elliot Chapman-Jones, head of public affairs at The Wildlife Trusts, says:
“Despite the green rhetoric and promise of meeting distant climate targets, the Chancellor passed the buck on dealing with the climate and nature crises today. New funding for energy efficiency won’t be made available until 2025, which does nothing for struggling households this winter. Instead, the Chancellor used the budget to launch a tax raid on renewables and electric vehicles.
“Even more worryingly, the Chancellor failed to mention the urgent need to get nature into recovery. Our economic prosperity is entirely dependent on a healthy natural environment. A Treasury review commissioned just last year found that our unsustainable relationship with nature is endangering the prosperity of current and future generations. Despite being one of the most nature depleted countries on the planet, the Chancellor has decided to instead continue with the extremely damaging HS2 project, the building of Sizewell C, and a greater reliance on offshore wind, over other renewables, at the expense of the marine environment.”
Many were hoping that the extremely damaging HS2 project would be reassessed. Instead, the Chancellor has reaffirmed the commitment to HS2 from London to Manchester – leaving this huge project on course to destroy so much.
The Wildlife Trusts have long argued that the vast scale of destruction to wildlife and wild places resulting from the construction of HS2 does not comply with the Government’s commitments to nature’s recovery and that we need to stop and rethink the whole HS2 programme.
The Wildlife Trusts’ report, What’s the Damage?, evidenced the serious risk that HS2 poses to nature; over 66,000 people wrote to the former Prime Minister asking him to review HS2. Today’s announcement means that it is more critical than ever that the whole project is redesigned to avoid continued unnecessary damage.
Sizewell C will destroy vast swathes of the Suffolk coastline in one of the most beautiful natural parts of the UK. People visit this part of Suffolk from all over the country to enjoy the wild countryside. An area of the coast the size of 900 football pitches will be directly affected by the development.
The environmental impact of building Sizewell C is huge and will lead to the loss of crucial natural habitat and endangered wildlife. Research has also shown that the cooling system will kill around three million fish a year, which could decimate entire marine ecosystems along the east coast.
Nuclear power stations are expensive and take a long time to build. While we need to move away from using fossil fuels fast – nuclear energy is not the saving grace that it is being billed as by some. Successive governments have focused on nuclear power instead of scaling-up home insulation, energy efficiency, and smart storage technologies. Suffolk Wildlife Trust has fought this enormous threat to the beautiful coastline in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Special Area of Conservation, a Special Protection Area for years – see here for more information. Having campaigned for so long against this outcome, the charity will now work in every possible way to limit the damage that the development will cause.