Nuclear energy will not halt the climate crisis - Lorna Slater

Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversityLorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity
Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity
Last week's UK budget was a bleak day for our climate. Throughout his speech the Chancellor kept referring to his ‘four Es’, but he forgot about the most important E of all: our environment.

As yesterday’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report confirmed, the Climate crisis is the greatest and most urgent crisis that we will ever face.

It is a global emergency, but last week’s budget didn’t even have anything meaningful in it for the burgeoning renewable industries that can power our way to a more sustainable future.

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Renewable energy is the cheapest and cleanest energy available. And we have a huge potential to generate even more of it. But you wouldn’t know it from listening to Downing Street.

Watching the Chancellor, I felt like we’d gone back in time 20 years. This is a UK government that is aware of the damage being done but is still choosing to double down on fossil fuels and planning even more drilling.

It is also boosting investment in nuclear power and unproven technologies. One of the most concerning announcements was for the launch of a so-called “Great British Nuclear” scheme.

By classifying nuclear power as an “environmentally sustainable” energy source, the Chancellor could allow nuclear giants to access the same support and investment incentives as renewable energy projects.

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Nuclear is not a viable or green option. The production of new nuclear power is extraordinarily expensive and will take years, if not decades, to become operational.

The Chancellor's plan is for nuclear power to provide a quarter of the UK’s energy by 2050, but that would be far too late. We simply don’t have time to waste on it.

Instead of hinging our bets on an unstable and money haemorrhaging scheme to boost nuclear power, our focus should be on using the green technology that is already available and providing the best possible pathway to net zero.

The Chancellor is one of the most powerful people in the country. He has a huge array of resources at his fingertips.

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He could have done so much more to support people with their energy bills. He could have unleashed the Treasury surplus to fuel the renewables revolution with lots of new green jobs and action to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis.

It was a stark contrast to only a few weeks ago, when the Scottish Parliament voted to endorse our greenest budget to date: with £2.2 billion of climate investment, including the scrapping of peak rail fares and significant boosts in funding for biodiversity, national parks and greener homes.

The future can and must be better than the climate vandalism and badly managed decline that the Tories are offering.

With Greens in government in Scotland, we are prioritising our environment and delivering the progressive change that is so badly needed. It’s time Downing Street did the same.

Lorna Slater is the minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity

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