The £28bn Question

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

Whilst I’ve not been obsessing about the £28bn that the Labour Party promised to borrow to invest in green matters every year in the next parliament, I’ve been trying to keep track of it; just as I’ve been wondering what it would be spent on. The sum has been vanishing before our eyes.  First it was revised to become £28 billion in the last year of the next parliament, and then the pledge was dropped and instead we now have £4.7 billion a year being spent on green investment.  Such a trifling sum, not even £100 per head, has been condemned by eco-NGOs.

The £28bn figure was conjured up by Ed Miliband when interest rates hovered around 0%, so it's perfectly understandable why the idea has been abandoned now that rates involve real numbers.  The Party made a complete horlicks of explaining all this.

But the "spent on what?" question lingers.  The habit of dreaming up a sum without knowing what it might be spent on gives economic planning a bad name.  Governments (and oppositions) are not subject to the financial disciplines that ordinary folk are.  Short of forging or thieving, we can't magic up money or borrow for somebody else to refund at some future point.

Philip Collins, writing in The Times, says this:

"The trouble with £28 billion is that the Labour Party does not control what it means. Delve into the policy documents — and who doesn’t like to spend their weekends researching Labour’s green proposals? — and you will discover that Labour has plans for home insulation (£6 billion), eight gigafactories (£2 billion), six clean steel plants (£3 billion), net-zero industrial clusters (£1 billion) and money as yet uncounted to establish GB Energy."

This does not add up to 28 x 5 (or so).  As such the £28bn with next to no clarity looks more like a millstone than a set of milestones.

Labour’s decarbonisation plans can be found in ‘Make Britain a Clean Energy Superpower’. Labour says it wants to quadruple offshore wind, double onshore wind by 2030, and triple solar capacity

Its 'Green Prosperity Plan' for the UK includes:

  • Cut household energy bills by up to £1400 a year, insulating millions of homes and building cheaper, cleaner power across the country
  • Save businesses £53bn in energy bills up to 2030, making British industry more competitive and lowering prices for consumers
  • Create hundreds of thousands of good new jobs, for plumbers, electricians, engineers and technicians across Britain as Labour invests in the industries of the future

And there is much more detail about the various bits of the UK.  I'd never heard of this document before I began to research this post.  It's all been £28bn, £28bn, £28bn, until it wasn't.

With £28bn now being dumped, attention is now being focused on its commitment to decarbonise the electricity grid by 2030, an issue that Ross Clark explores in The Spectator.

As decarbonisation on this timescale is widely agreed to be quite impossible, how long will it take to dump this policy as well, even though the public's not really heard of it.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


  • (we won't publish this)

Write a response

  • Always fascinating to look at how policy wonks think to resolve environmental issues. It's the trying to solve the problem with the same thinking that created the problem (nod to Einstein quote). I like Daniel Quinn's observation from 'Beyond Civilization': "Old Minds think: How do we stop these bad things from happening?
    If it didn’t work last year, let’s do more of it this year (and throw more money at it - if we have it?). New Minds think: How do we make things the way we want them to be? It if didn’t work last year, let’s do something else this year."