Bishop bashes Kwarteng’s mini-budget for being ‘reckless with nature’
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The Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment has said the government’s contentious mini-budget displays a “recklessness with nature”, describing it as “a travesty”.
The Right Reverend Graham Usher, the Bishop of Norwich, shared a lengthy Twitter thread – also retweeted by the National Trust – in which the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) strongly criticised the government’s proposed 38 'investment zones' in a 13-tweet response.
The government's investment zones are areas identified in England where planning rules will be loosened in order to release more land for commercial and housing developments.
Rev. Usher said Kwasi Kwarteng’s plans showed “a real disdain for the planet at a time of climate emergency and biodiversity collapse”, the Eastern Daily Press reported.
He said land management schemes introduced to ensure the natural environment is protected on farmland could be rolled back.
Rev. Usher also expressed concerns that this government does not plan to keep in place European laws protecting wildlife, rivers, clean air and food standards, after it unveiled its Retained EU Law Bill.
Rev. Usher said: “The government’s rhetoric of pitting nature and climate change action against investment and growth, I don’t think is healthy and neither is calling our internationally agreed commitment to the environment ‘burdens’. It does need to be urgently challenged.
“My clear message is I believe the government’s current course of action – its current recklessness with nature – is a travesty. It fails to understand that healthy nature underpins a healthy society and a healthy economy.
“Now is the time to speak up for the care of God’s creation, but also so this generation and future generations can enjoy the awe and wonder of God’s creation.
“Investment is important and finding jobs is really important, but should that be at the cost of what the government is calling ripping up red tape?
“Red tape often is there for a purpose and has been developed over many years because of environmental disasters we have faced in the past.”
Rev. Usher, who is a keen beekeeper, began life as an ecologist and was appointed lead bishop on the environment by the Archbishop of Canterbury last year.
On the day of the mini-budget last Friday, he wrote on Twitter: “I’m deeply concerned by the way the government wants to renege on its climate and nature responsibilities.
“Ripping up our commitments to internationally agreed directives, that have begun to turn the tide of nature destruction, is totally irresponsible. They do this at our peril.”
He was also critical of the economic impact of the mini-budget, telling a press conference in Norwich earlier this week: “There seems to be some deep inequality around how it has been set and whether it will provide any support at all for the poorest in our communities facing the cost-of-living crisis.”
The chancellor's mini-budget – in which he proposed scrapping the 45p top rate of tax (largely benefitting the 1 per cent of the UK's wealthiest individuals) and cutting the basic rate to 19p in the pound – set off a powder-keg reaction in the financial markets, as traders rushed to sell off sterling in response to the ballooning cost of the government's borrowing to pay for its economic plans.
This resulted in the pound falling to its lowest-ever rate against the US dollar this week, a state of affairs with potentially catastrophic financial impacts on both businesses and individuals in the UK.
In an unprecedented move, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) publicly rebuked the government's plans yesterday (Tuesday), warning that the chancellor's deep tax cuts would only serve to fuel both inflation and inequality. There is also concern that any deepening recession in the UK could cause worldwide ripples, dragging down other nations' economies.
Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney said he is “very concerned” following the extraordinary statement from the IMF.
Speaking to the BBC, Swinney said: “I think the warnings are very stark about the folly of the decision that have been taken by the UK government.
“Friday’s unfunded tax cuts will cause two things to happen: they will require a significant reduction in public expenditure in the UK and that will have a terrible effect on public spending in Scotland if the UK government is to respond to the markets.
“Secondly, I think it will trigger a much deeper recession than would have been the case as a consequence of the turbulence that we’re experiencing now and that has the potential to have a knock-on effect into other countries and to effect global financial systems, which is a disaster for all of us.”
Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA, said: “It appears everyone is unusually united in their objection to the Treasury’s tax-cutting plans at a time when inflation is almost 10 per cent and rising.
“Moody’s was equally scathing, warning that the measures are a credit negative that could threaten the country’s credibility with investors and more permanently weaken the UK’s debt affordability.
“It’s no surprise then to see sterling plummet once more alongside Kwasi Kwarteng and Liz Truss’s credibility on the world stage. Not the best start to life in Downing Street.”
The Bank of England has today launched an emergency UK government bond-buying programme in response to the pound's collapse to prevent borrowing costs from spiralling out of control and stave off a “material risk to UK financial stability”.
The Bank announced it was stepping in to buy government bonds – known as gilts – at an “urgent pace” after fears over the government’s economic policies sent the pound tumbling and sparked a sell-off in the gilts market.
While the pound hit an all-time record low of 1.03 against the US dollar on Monday, the yield on 10-year gilts – which is a proxy for the effective interest rate on public borrowing – has soared by the most in a five-year period since 1976, according to experts.
Certain UK-run hedge funds are known to have profited handsomely from sterling's collapse this week.
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