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scientists respond to Gordon Brown’s pre-budget report

Pre-Budget Report

Michelle Richmond, director of qualifications at the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology), said:

“It is vital that we do not lose sight of the fact that engineering and technology remain key skills sets for UK economic growth. These objectives are core to our activities as a not-for-profit organisation focussing on training and knowledge sharing.

“Although the Chancellor seems to be putting skills and training at the heart of this report we were surprised that there was little detail of further support for the Diplomas or commitment to delivering Leitch’s call for 250,000 more apprenticeships. The IET works closely with many major employers and has recently launched a fast-track route for their apprentices and technicians to obtain the internationally recognised professional qualification, Engineering Technician.”

Dr Dave Reay, School of GeoSciences, University Of Edinburgh, said:

“The ‘green taxes’ that have been announced today are hardly the kind of thing to alarm the budget airlines and 4-wheel drive owners, but they’re a start. Making all new housing ‘zero carbon’ within a decade is a much more ambitious plan, but this won’t be achieved through the limited incentive of their being stamp duty-exempt. It’s the lax enforcement of current building standards that must be addressed, not in a decade, but right now. The benefits to the climate of tackling energy wastage from UK homes are huge and it’s good to see this has been recognised, it’s just a shame that we have to wait still longer for all those gas-guzzling cars chugging by outside get the same treatment.”

Dr Keith Tovey, HSBC Director of Low Carbon Innovation, CRed Energy Science Director and Reader in Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, said:

“The report makes much of technology and/or financial measures to combat climate change, but there is little, if anything, on effective management. The idea of zero carbon houses will not be effective as an aim as it stands.

“Several notable low energy office buildings were built in late 1990s and yet most ended up with energy consumption levels which were up to twice those predicted. UEA on the other hand, with the ZICER building and the Elizabeth Fry building, have shown that with effective analysis and innovative adaptive management the energy consumption of an already low energy building can be reduced by as much as 57 per cent. Technology to solve the global warming issues is a necessary first step but we must not get complacent once a building is put up. Adaptive management and control as pioneered by UEA is important, as of course is awareness raising amongst users.”

Phil Sivell, Team Leader Climate Change, Transport Research Laboratory, said:

“The small increase in Air Passenger Duty for intra-EU flights is a missed opportunity to recognise the environmental costs of greenhouse gas emissions, noise and air quality. The increases are far to small to effect behaviour significantly. Viable alternatives exist for many intra-EU flights. For long haul business flights, the increases are of the order of only 4% – again not enough to effect behaviour. The total air passenger duty will still be much smaller that the VAT that is levied on almost all other goods and services.

“The increase in Road Fuel Duties by the rate of inflation is a very small step in the right direction. By the Chancellors own figures, fuel duties remain 15% lower than they were in 1999 when climate change had barely been recognised as an issue.

“This pre-budget report is noticeable for what it does not change. We continue to have no duty or VAT on aviation fuel, and there is no increase in the vehicle excise duty differential between the least and most polluting road vehicles. The Chancellor has not taken advantage of the possibility of using financial incentives to scrap older, more polluting, vehicles as suggested by the European Commission in its EURO 5 proposal for all member states.”

John Morton, Chief Executive, Engineering and Technology Board, said:

“We will only “out-innovate” our competitors if the private sector matches the public investment in our world leading science base. We welcome the £60m applied research investment for universities, but without a fundamental change in private sector investment attitudes to technology stocks we will not step-change knowledge into UK wealth creation.”

Dr Bridget Woodman, Researcher at the UK Energy Research Centre, said:

“Raising air passenger duty and increasing road fuel duty will grab the headlines, but the level of the increase is unlikely to discourage many people from flying or driving.

“The ambition for zero carbon homes within ten years, however, is encouraging and should act as a powerful incentive on the construction industry to innovate. This is a bold target; we look forward to seeing the concrete proposals and a further announcement in the 2007 Budget.”

Professor Ian Colbeck, Director of the Centre for Environment and Society, University of Essex, said:

“The pre-budget report is based on the Chancellor’s short term future rather than the planet’s long term future. Who benefits from the increase in air passenger duty – the Government and not the developing nations that will suffer most climate change?”

Dr David Brown, Chief Executive at the Institution of Chemical Engineers, said:

“The additional £50k for every secondary school is great news. But it depends upon how you spend it and here’s a good idea. Head teachers should use this money to double the pay for outstanding maths and physics teachers. No hassle, no bureaucracy, just do it. Then step back and watch the impact that this will have on the UK’s science and engineering community. Overnight, the mood will change. The brightest and best teachers will be drawn to two crucial subjects that are fundamental to maintaining our competitive advantage, inspiring their pupils to do likewise.”

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