Energy: UK lags behind European economies on low-carbon spend

The UK is lagging behind major Western European economies on low-carbon energy policy spend, new data shows.

Data from the International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental agency, shows UK spend on low-carbon measures from April 2020 to the end of April 2023 was around $33.3bn (£26.2m), according to analysis of the data by Greenpeace, reported by the Guardian.

This means the UK trails other major Western economies. Italy came top of the table, spending $111bn in the period, ahead of Germany spending $92.7bn, France with $64.5bn and Spain around $51.3bn.

The disclosure of the figures comes ahead of this week’s budget, in which much of the debate has centered around likely tax cuts.

However, chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce some eco policies.

These include green initiatives being part of £360m of funding for a series of manufacturing and research and development projects and a £120m increase in funding for the Green Industries Growth Accelerators, supporting the expansion of low-carbon manufacturing supply chains across the UK.

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The International Energy Agency figures includes spending on electricity networks, energy efficiency, fuel and technology enterprise, low-carbon and efficient transport as well as low-carbon electricity.

Breaking the data down, the UK spent around $42bn on energy affordability in the period; around $13.3bn was spent on energy efficiency for homes and industry, $12.8bn on low-carbon transport and less than $6bn on renewable electricity and innovation in the UK, the analysis shows.

Bob Ward, the policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said: “There is now very clear evidence that the UK has been investing much less than its competitors across a range of areas, including on tackling climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation.

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said: “This report fails to recognise our progress compared to European allies. We are the first major economy in the world to halve our emissions, and we have the second largest renewables capacity in Europe.

“We have a clear strategy to boost UK industry and reach net zero by 2050 – backed by £300bn in low carbon investment since 2010.”

In October last year, the government passed a set of new laws which it says will help ensure affordable energy and assure net zero for businesses via a new tender process which will reduce costs for network operation and development.

Around the same time, it  announced that it will make around £230 million of funding available to public sector organisations, as part of a drive to cut carbon emissions in the public sector decarbonisation scheme.

AnalysisClimate crisisEnergyInnovationNet zeroNewsPolicySocial sustainability

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