Last reviewed 26 November 2020

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Spending Review aims to "protect lives and livelihoods” through major investments in the UK’s infrastructure, but with few commitments to ‘build back greener’.

The chancellor told MPs that the UK faces an "economic emergency" with £280 billion spent on getting “our country through coronavirus" and unemployment expected to reach 2.6 million early next year.

The headliner in today’s announcement is a £100bn commitment on infrastructure next year rising to £600bn over the next four years, in a strategy designed to rebuild the UK economy and create new jobs.

The £100bn plan includes building new homes, schools and hospitals, but the largest portion, £27bn of the funding, will be targeted at a major new road-building programme, dwarfing the £12bn commitment to Net Zero already announced. Campaigners say the roads programme will increase transport emissions and undermines the Prime Minister’s much vaunted 10-point plan for a ‘green industrial revolution’.

Shaun Spiers, executive director of Green Alliance, contrasted Sunak’s announcements with last week’s pledges. Speaking to the Guardian newspaper Spiers said: “The chancellor gave no sense that he understands the scale of the climate and nature emergencies, or the potential of the green economy for immediate job creation across the country.”

The spending review offered little extra new money for green measures, but a few ‘green shoots’ were announced, including £120m for an additional 500 zero-emissions buses next year and funding to expand the UK’s cycle lanes.

£950m will be used to install rapid electric vehicle charging hubs at all service stations in England’s motorways and major A-roads, with an additional £582m for the Plug-in Car, Van, Taxi and Motorcycle Grant and an extra £275m support for charge points for homes, workplaces and on-street locations. 

Defra’s budget will be increased by around £1bn for core and capital spending. Waste and recycling will also receive additional funding to support extending producer responsibility for packaging waste, deposit return schemes and waste collections, including food waste in all local authorities in England.