UK’s Sunak to spend three billion pounds on green projects in economy plan

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Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London
FILE PHOTO: Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is seen as he arrives at Downing Street, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, May 13, 2020. REUTERS/John Sibley

July 6, 2020

LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak will earmark 3 billion pounds ($3.75 billion) to create green jobs and improve the energy efficiency of public buildings when he announces his broader plans to kickstart the economy on Wednesday.

A third of the package would be spent on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from public-sector buildings, such as schools and hospitals, and from social housing, the finance ministry said.

Heating buildings accounts for almost a fifth of Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions, making the investment a key part of Britain’s attempts to be a net-zero carbon emitter by 2050, the finance ministry added.

Sunak is expected to focus Wednesday’s announcement mostly on how the government will try to counter a jump in unemployment caused by the lockdown of much of the economy in late March which is now being relaxed only gradually.

Sunak has already announced emergency measures worth an estimated 133 billion pounds ($166 billion), much of it to try to stem the rise in unemployment.

The Resolution Foundation think tank said it estimated Sunak needed to spend a further 200 billion pounds over the next two years to support the economy.

This sum included 34 billion pounds on extending job support measures and new wage subsidies and 30 billion pounds in ‘high street vouchers’ for the public to spend on face-to-face retail, hospitality and leisure.

Britain’s finance ministry was not immediately able to say whether the 3 billion-pound environment plan represented new investment by the government or previously earmarked funds.

The package would include a new, 40 million-pound fund dedicated to cleaning up nature and planting trees which would back up to 5,000 new jobs, the finance ministry said.

The Confederation of British Industry welcomed the spending announcement.

“With the Government’s own manifesto promising 9.2 billion pounds on energy efficiency alone, we look forward to seeing the full details on delivery of its ambition to build back greener,” CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith said.

(Reporting by William Schomberg and David Milliken)

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