The Chancellor’s eleventh and some say final budget included a number of measures designed to woo the green vote, such as increasing the rate of tax on the most polluting vehicles from £210 a year to £300, introducing tax cuts for biofuels and biogas, and increasing the amount of grant money available for insulating homes and installing micro-renewable energy technologies.
Whilst motoring groups smeared Gordon Brown as a ‘cynical, tax-guzzling posturer’, environmentalists said that most of the measures, whilst pointing in the right direction, will fail to significantly alter the behaviour of the public or industry.
Friends of the Earth welcomed decisions to increase landfill tax by a further £5 per tonne every year, but were disappointed that an ‘incinerator tax’ was not mentioned, which could dissuade local authorities from burning household waste. The group described the Chancellor’s announcement of an extra £6m of funding for microgeneration technologies as ‘a joke’, and said that the increase in road tax would not stop people buying more polluting cars and 4x4s.
The development charity Christian Aid called for this to be the last Budget which did not include a ‘clear, annual budget for the UK’s carbon emissions.’ Whilst welcoming a number of the proposals, Paul Brannen, head of Christian Aid’s climate change campaign, hoped that this would be the end of what he described as ‘piecemeal policies’.
‘We need government to set out a clear strategy for systematic cuts,’ he said.
Stephan Hale, director of Green Alliance, welcomed the Budget as ‘feeling like progress.’ However, he joined with other environmental groups in voicing disappointment that no measures had been introduced to tackle aviation. His comments were echoed by Paul King, director of WWF, who hailed the Budget as a ‘good start’, but criticised the Chancellor for taking ‘very cautious steps’.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist March 2007