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UK pledges £3 billion to make economy greener, but environmental groups say it isn't enough

Key Points
  • Rishi Sunak announced plans for a £3 billion "green investment package" in a speech on Wednesday. 
  • The announcement was made during an economic statement focused on providing support to the U.K. economy. 
H Matthew Howarth [flatworldsedge] | Moment | Getty Images

The U.K.'s finance minister has unveiled plans for a £3 billion ($3.8 billion) "green investment package" that will attempt to boost the energy efficiency of buildings and help create jobs, but environmental groups criticized the government for failing to match the commitments of their European counterparts.

Rishi Sunak made the announcement during a wide-ranging economic statement to the U.K. Parliament that focused on providing support to an economy reeling from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

"This is going to be a green recovery, with concern for our environment at its heart," Sunak, who has been in his role as chancellor of the exchequer since February, said on Wednesday.

As part of his plans, the minister announced a £2 billion "green homes grant" that will enable landlords and homeowners to apply for vouchers to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

"The grants will cover at least two-thirds of the cost, up to £5,000 per household, and for low-income households we'll go even further, with vouchers covering the full cost, up to £10,000."  

It's hoped that the scheme will generate jobs at a local level. Improvements could include works on floor, wall and loft insulation, the government said. 

A separate £1 billion will focus on making public buildings, such as hospitals and schools, greener, while a £50 million fund will "pilot the right approach to decarbonize social housing."

The finance minister said that, taken together, it was expected that the measures would "make over 650,000 homes more energy efficient" and save households as much as £300 each year on bills.

In terms of the environmental impact, he added that the plans would "cut carbon by more than half a mega tonne per year" and "support around 140,000 green jobs."  

Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace U.K., said the chancellor had "made many of the right noises about sparking a green recovery."

"But instead of digging deeper to deliver on this promise, he seems to have downed spades with the job only part done," she added.

"The £3 billion announcement on energy efficiency is an important start but it can only be a beginning and is dwarfed by green recovery commitments in Germany and France."

"We need more and sustained investment in energy efficiency, transport and nature than we got today."