Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Wednesday, 8 April 2009 17:50 UK

PM heralds 'green economy' Budget

Gordon Brown
Mr Brown pledged to aid economic recovery by 'building a greener Britain'

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is promising this month's Budget will plot a "green" route to economic recovery.

Trials of electric cars, a roadside network of vehicle-charging points and incentives for environmentally friendly carmakers are among planned measures.

Mr Brown told the Independent there was scant room for further fiscal stimulus.

Instead, he said, the Budget on 22 April would be "a job creator, a quality of life improver, and an environment-enhancing measure".

Mr Brown told the newspaper: "It is not just what we do to give real help to people and business now, but about setting a path for the future as well.

"We always take into account both what we need to do now and what is the best future for the fiscal position," he said.

'Token gestures'

The Conservatives accused Mr Brown of copying their proposals for a low-carbon economy.

Shadow energy and climate change secretary Greg Clark said: "Now that the governor of the Bank of England has aborted Gordon Brown's plans for a ruinous new debt-funded fiscal stimulus, the prime minister is desperate for something to say in the forthcoming budget.

There needs to be a greater sense of urgency that will bring much needed jobs and help reduce emissions causing climate change
John Sauven, Greenpeace

"He has clearly alighted on Conservative polices announced by David Cameron in January to turn Britain into a low-carbon economy. These include a national network of charging points for electric vehicles, and a smart meter for every home.

"We hope Gordon Brown will implement our programme for a low-carbon economy in full, but in the past his environmental promises have proved to be hollow."

Last month, Bank of England governor Mervyn King warned against further public borrowing to fund measures to boost the economy while being questioned by MPs from the Treasury Committee.

Simon Hughes, for the Liberal Democrats, said the Budget needed to contain "more than just token gestures towards acknowledging the environmental crisis".

He said: "This government's record on the environment has been a disaster, with the approval of the third runway at Heathrow and a massive road-building programme."

'Green cities'

The Independent said trials of electric cars were likely to begin next year in two or three cities, while ministers would open talks with electricity suppliers on developing the roadside power points.

Councils would also be invited to submit bids to become Britain's first "green cities", it said.

Mr Brown has previously called for an international "green new deal" to stimulate growth.

He said that moving the UK to a low-carbon economy would create 400,000 new jobs over the next eight years.

However, he was recently criticised by the New Economics Foundation think-tank for failing to harness Labour's economic stimulus for the benefit of the environment.

'Greater urgency'

In a report, it said new green spending was "astonishingly small" compared to other spending commitments, several of which were in conflict with environmental goals.

And Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said Mr Brown's promises that economic recovery was going to be green needed to be backed up by actual delivery.

He said: "There are great targets for the delivery of renewable energy by 2020, but missed targets for 2010. And this sector of the economy is receiving nothing like the boost it needs."

New funding for greening the economy accounted for just 0.6% of the total UK stimulus package and that European competitors were rolling out national plans for electric cars while Britain was just discussing pilot schemes, he argued.

"There needs to be a greater sense of urgency that will bring much needed jobs and help reduce emissions causing climate change.

"The economy and the environment won't be saved by promises alone," he said.

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