At a time of fiscal austerity triggered by the 2008 global financial crisis, environmental policy has increasingly come under pressure as a cost burden on business. At the same time, environmental spending has been prioritized by many leading economies as a means by which to stimulate sluggish economies, whilst also enhancing environmental outcomes. In this paper, we examine the politics of environmental spending - so called 'green budgeting' - since the 2008 economic crisis. In an attempt to move beyond normative critiques of green budgeting initiatives, we aim to examine how institutional politics determine (green) budgeting outcomes in the UK, as an internationally heralded practitioner of green budgeting. We show how green budget outcomes have been shaped by the interplay of institutional actors, who employ rival discourses of environmental policy as being either a cost burden slowing growth, or a stimulus for economic recovery. Ultimately, drawing on perspectives from game theory, we show how these rival environmental policy discourses are used in a bargaining game to minimize the impact of austerity politics by rival political institutions pursing their wider policy goals. In so doing, the paper illuminates some of key implementation challenges faced by green budgeting initiatives.
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