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EGEB: The public weighs in on environmental issues on Capitol Hill today

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • It’s Public Witness Day on Capitol Hill for the Green Climate Fund, species protection, and more.
  • The UK’s 2020 budget: How did green energy and the environment fare?
  • Luxembourg has become the first country to make all public transport free nationwide.

The Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB): A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Eco-testimony on the Hill

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs is listening to public testimony today about the Green Climate Fund (GCF), international climate research, species protections, and more.

The Green Climate Fund is the world’s largest dedicated fund helping developing countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and enhance their ability to respond to climate change. It was set up by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2010.

Witnesses expected to speak about eco issues include Tom Cors of The Nature Conservancy, Danielle Heiberg of Global Water 2020, and W. Ron Allen of the Pacific Salmon Commission. Dan West of the National Resources Defense Council, who is speaking today, says in his testimony:

We ask that Congress provide renewed funding to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which is a smart investment that creates new opportunities for American companies and workers to tap into the $60 trillion global clean energy market and create good-paying American jobs. Many American companies export their technologies and innovations around the world, including to projects that are enabled by the GCF.

Bilateral programs like sustainable landscapes, renewable energy, adaptation, and biodiversity programs are all smart investments to strengthen US alliances and prevent instability overseas by helping developing countries become more resilient.

West also will urge Congress to fully fund the Global Environment Facility — protecting species and forests — and provide additional funding for international climate research and the Montreal Protocol’s fund supporting the phase-out of ozone-destroying chemicals.

UK 2020 budget — how green?

The UK’s chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak presented the country’s 2020 budget yesterday in Parliament. Here’s what Sunak, who is a Conservative Party member, announced about green energy and the environment:

  • Removed the tax break on red diesel (diesel dyed red to identify it for non-motoring functions). However, subsidies won’t be taken away from agriculture, fish farming, and rail just yet.
  • £500 million to be spent over the next five years on an EV supercharging network.
  • £300 million to tackle air pollution.
  • The current EV-purchase grant has been extended to 2023, and that’s worth £403 million. However, the current grant of up to £3,500 will be cut to £3,000 starting today. The grant is no longer available on cars that cost more than £50,000.
  • Tax on electricity is being reduced and tax on natural gas is being increased.
  • The energy research and development budget is being doubled to £1 billion.
  • There’s a new tax of £200 per tonne on plastic items containing less than 30% recycled plastic.
  • For climate-crisis resiliency, spending on flood defenses will be doubled, with a further £5.2 billion to protect more than 300,000 homes over the next six years.
  • A new Nature for Climate Fund that gets £640 million to preserve peat bogs and woodlands.
  • 30,000 hectares of trees will be planted over five years.
  • Two carbon-capture clusters will be funded for up to £800 million.

The not-so-good? No taxation change for the fossil-fuel industry, and fuel duty remains frozen. Further, there was no mention of improving domestic energy efficiency. Also, environmentalists are not happy about £27 billion for new roads.

A new national infrastructure strategy, encompassing hundreds of billions of pounds in public- and private-sector spending on green energy, transport, and communications, has been postponed to later this spring.

Luxembourg’s free transport

Luxembourg has become the first country to make all public transport free nationwide, as of March 1. Unsurprisingly, more people use public transport if it’s free.

However, according to Enrica Papa, senior lecturer in transport planning at the University of Westminster in the UK, this doesn’t necessarily reduce drivers, but rather just increases pedestrians and cyclists on public transport.

So how can ICE car drivers be encouraged to take free public transport instead (that is, if they’re not switching to EVs)? Papa writes:

Rather than relying on free public transport to engineer the shift, a more effective way to reduce the number of people choosing to drive could be regulating car use.

Increasing the cost of parking, congestion charging, or increasing fuel taxes could all be combined with free fares to lower car demand.

Cleaner and more reliable public transport must be a prerequisite for these schemes if buses and trams are to compete with the car, and making it part of a wider investment plan could have a big impact on the sustainability of transport.

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Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.