Levelling up the North but letting down the environment

By Jane O’Mahoney

It’s a great day for the future of the North East economy!

But, is it really? Bringing increased prosperity to the North East in the short and medium-term is fantastic but it won’t make any difference in the long-term if we don’t ‘level up’ and fully commit to addressing the systemic environmental and social problems that thrive within the current infrastructure in which we operate.

It is a catastrophe that the government’s response to the climate change crisis is not at the heart of the budget but presented as a separate issue. When will we learn that economic, social and environmental prosperity are interconnected?

There are positives we can take, such as eight freeport regions where green investment processes will be streamlined and £27 million for an Aberdeen Energy Transition Zone to assist the move away from oil and gas. However, the promised shift towards fining those who pollute and rewarding those who pivot to sustainable operations, was noticeably missing and £1bn towards net-zero innovations is wholly unacceptable.

What is clear, is that the government doesn’t grasp the urgency for sustainable change, despite how much it claims to. If it did, it would have allowed the unspent budget from The Green Homes Grant to roll over into next year’s fund. Considering only 6% was spent of the £1.5bn put aside for the scheme, it’s nothing short of a disgrace. It’s really not hard to grasp that if we don’t commit to renovating UK homes, we won’t reduce emissions sufficiently. Heating, predominantly gas, produces approximately a quarter of UK emissions. I’m no mathematician, nor politician but it seems someone should have made a point to flag this one up.

Whilst I am, of course, pleased for the North East economy, I fear there are far greater issues at play and far greater repercussions that will come back to bite us all as a result of sidelining the environment and societal inequalities.