The Government will not lay out its response to US and EU green industrial strategies until the autumn, the Chancellor has said.
Environmental analysts and business leaders are expecting a host of climate and energy policies on Thursday that would spur UK investment in green technology and decarbonisation.
But answering questions at the Treasury Committee on Wednesday, Jeremy Hunt said he will not respond to similar initiatives made in the US and EU until the autumn.
When asked if there was a risk of the UK being squeezed out by the US and EU, he said: “I said in the Budget that I would return in the Autumn Statement with a fuller response and there was a reason for that, which is I want the UK to remain competitive.
“And I needed to see, which I wasn’t able to do at the Budget, what the EU response was going to be before we formulated our full national response. And so we will return to this and we’re doing a lot of very detailed work.”
Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband said yesterday that the UK is losing the “global green race” during a speech where he outlined Labour’s ideas for a green industrial revolution.
Writing on social media, Mr Miliband called the Chancellor’s decision “absolutely shameful”, adding: “As other countries in the global race for clean jobs and industries speed off into the distance, the Tories are going to waste months deciding whether to tie up their laces.”
Chris Stark, chief executive of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), said the next few months are “completely critical” for luring green investment to the UK.
He described this moment as “the window” where the Government must make clear to investors its priority and intentions.
He said: “There is a really important need to signal to the wider world, to the investor community, to global companies that have choices about where they put their capital, that we are responding in the right way to this crisis, that we have still got good plans in place to deliver goals like the 2035 power target.”
The Government must publish its revised net zero strategy on Thursday after legal action involving ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth and the Good Law Project led to a judge finding the previous version to be unlawful.
Analysts are also expecting responses to Chris Skidmore MP’s mission zero review and the CCC’s 2022 progress report.
A Downing Street spokesperson said the inclusion of a response to the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the EU Green Industrial Plan – both aimed at encouraging investment in low-carbon technology – was “speculation in one article”.
They said energy secretary Grant Shapps will instead be focused on energy security on Thursday – what was unofficially dubbed green day, now energy security day.
Sam Alvis, head of economy at Green Alliance, said: “Energy security day should have been the moment for the UK Government to show it is on track for net zero and up to the challenge of competing in the global green race.
“Despite two budgets and a series of interventions since the (IRA) passed in August, we are seeing too many reannouncements and reviews.
“The US has established a long-term, 400 billion dollar (£325 billion) plan for green infrastructure and investment. It’s attracting foreign investment and will create thousands of new green jobs.
“For the UK, waiting for the autumn means more lost time, more lost investment and a missed opportunity to seize the benefits that come with greening our economy.”
Jess Ralston, head of energy at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit said: “It has taken about six months for the EU to respond to the US Inflation Reduction Act and the bloc has 27 members, so businesses and investors may be questioning why it looks like it will take more than a year for the UK to do so.
“This delay could be the final nail in the coffin for some investors looking for long-term policy and regulatory certainty.
“The UK’s net zero economy is worth over £70 billion, but while oil and gas companies get tax breaks, renewable energy companies are already signalling they could shift investment across the Atlantic leaving the UK’s energy security ambitions in jeopardy.
“Where’s the plan on gigafactories and green steel where we lag behind Europe?”