An extra £1bn has been pledged by the Government to tackle climate change, but ministers have been accused of squandering an historic opportunity to kickstart a green revolution.
Chancellor Alistair Darling trailed his Budget as the world’s first carbon budget, featuring an extra £435m for energy efficiency measures for businesses and homes and another £405m to encourage low carbon energy and advanced green manufacturing.
The Chancellor said the UK is committed to cutting its emissions by 34% by 2020, but Friends of the Earth said a 42% cut was the minimum required if the UK is to play its part in avoiding dangerous climate change.
Mr Darling said it is vital to build on Britain’s status as the world leader in offshore wind power generation, but major projects are being held up by the credit squeeze.
“I want to lift the barriers — through £525m of new financial support over the next two years for offshore wind, funded through the Renewables Obligation,” he said.
“The potential is enormous. I am confident this will lead to major projects getting the go-ahead quickly, providing electricity to meet the needs of
up to three million households.”
Renewable and other energy projects stand to benefit from up to £4bn of new capital from the European Investment Bank, he added.
The Chancellor tagged the UK as a potential world leader in carbon capture and storage and pledged that a new funding mechanism will finance at least two demonstration projects.
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors said the 34% emissions cut was an ambitious target which can be met through a major focus on renewable energy.
“Northern Ireland has significant potential for renewable energy generation which the Executive has committed to exploiting,” a spokesman said.
Green Party Assembly member Brian Wilson said the Chancellor had missed an opportunity to create a low carbon economy by putting significant investment into renewable energy and creating thousands of jobs.
And FoE warned that Northern Ireland’s share of green money should be ring-fenced for energy efficiency and renewables.
“The Executive should not see this money as general funds to be spent as it sees fit, but used for schemes which will create jobs, cut people’s fuel bills and help to reduce Northern Ireland’s carbon emissions,” campaigner Declan Allison said.