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Budget 2012: Environment is key to our economic future

Last modified: 21 March 2012

Bluebell in bloom, Wood of Cree

Image: Andy Hay

In his Budget speech today, Chancellor George Osborne continued the UK along an economic path which locks us into unsustainable, high-carbon, short-term growth.

Responding to the speech Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: 'While the Chancellor waves the flag for carbon reduction initiatives and green investment with one hand, he is pushing through tax incentives for oil and gas drilling off the coast of Scotland with the other.

'His plan for growth clearly involves building more infrastructure, more roads and more runways, but this must be compatible with the green economy we have been promised so many times by this Government.

'In the Autumn statement last year George Osborne set out a plan for short sighted economic growth based on the mistaken belief that environmental protection is a burden on business. In today’s speech he has continued to commit us to that path, locking us into an unsustainable economic plan that fails to take into account the very real value of our wildlife and countryside.

'We must see an economic plan for growth which puts the environment at the heart of decision making'

'The chancellor told us today that 'environmentally sustainable has to be fiscally sustainable'. This works both ways, and we must see an economic plan for growth which puts the environment at the heart of decision making.

'In the opening paragraph of the Government’s own Natural Environment White paper last year we were told that, ‘a healthy, properly functioning natural environment is the foundation of sustained economic growth, prospering communities and personal well being’. However the Treasury is being allowed to lead the charge without heeding these wise words from elsewhere in the Government.

'We know that many Liberal Democrats and pro-environment Conservatives are concerned about the impact of untrammelled growth in our countryside. They reflect the views of many members of the public for whom our natural environment is one of our most precious assets. If these views are ignored the Chancellor and his allies risk alienating a large section of our society.

'The announcement of new tax breaks for oil and gas exploration off the Shetland Islands is a cause for concern for both the climate and for the wildlife in that region. If oil and gas are going to be pushed further to the centre of our energy strategy, this is only acceptable if matched with robust environmental safeguards.

'We agree that development is necessary if the UK is to remain competitive, we agree that our economy needs to grow to enable all of us to prosper. But this must not happen at the cost of our environment.'

The Government is expected to release full details of its review of the Habitats Regulations – the most important system of protection for wildlife rich habitats – tomorrow, and on Tuesday next week will unveil its long awaited reform of the planning system.

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