Posts Tagged ‘emissions’

Mr. Darling’s first budget was this week, and days before he announced it there was lots of speculation about a big green, tree-hugging, hippie-loving budget coming our way. Reading the section on these issues entitled “An Environmentally Sustainable World”, I think the verdict from Environmentalists is likely to be ‘Improving, but could do a lot better’.

The first announcements are car taxes. From next year it’s going to cost you £425 to tax your car if it emits more than 255g CO2 per kilometer, and from 2010 the ‘most polluting cars’ will have a first-year rate of £950. There will be reductions in tax for cars emitting 150g CO2 per km or less and discounts for ‘alternatively fuelled cars’(1).

Unfortunately, I doubt this will be enough to stop people from buying heavily polluting cars, but it might add a small amount of pressure on car manufacturers too, which has to be a good thing. It’s hardly the £2000 tax that had been speculated in the press(2) – if these taxes increased year-on-year then I think we might be getting somewhere – but it’s a start.

Next up was tax on fuel. It is increasing above inflation, which is going to piss a lot of people off, but is likely to have a pretty minimal effect on emissions on its own, if any. People need to get from A to B, and if their only option is a crappy, expensive bus or an unreliable, expensive train, then they are going to pay for petrol no matter how much it costs.

Which brings us on to public transport. If you can find it. Of the 20 pages in the chapter, six lines of text are given to public transport. Am I the only one that finds that a bit alarming? Apparently the Secretary of State for Transport will soon publish a document on ‘the reform of bus subsidy’ to include carbon emissions and technology proposals. Something tells me it’s not going to exactly revolutionise our public transport, but we’ll see.

And then there comes the dreaded B word. Biofuels. You can almost hear the collective sigh from the environmentalists across the nation (see previous post on biofuels).

But hold on, this may not be as bad as it first appears. Although the Government is still planning on using biofuels as a big part of it’s climate change strategy, there is going to be a study of the “wider economic and environmental impacts” and the Chancellor and several other senior Government figures have written to the EU to outline what they believe should be the principles governing EU policies on biofuels. These include ‘robust sustainability standards’, making sure they are reducing emissions, and ensuring they take into account the indirect effects of biofuels.

If this rhetoric is not followed up with strictly controlled regulation of biofuels sourcing and use, then we are in for big trouble. But if these are put in place to make sure they are reducing overall emissions and not causing an escalation of food prices etc. then it might be a small help.

There is lots of reiteration of general Government policies – carbon pricing, investing in new technologies etc. but the only real news is that all non-domestic buildings should be zero-carbon by 2019 – adding to the previous announcement that all new homes should be zero-carbon by 2016. (This is a great start, but I suspect the Government hasn’t even begun to think about the huge change and investment required for this to actually happen.)

And of course there is always the news that there will be Government intervention if retailers don’t do something about plastic bags – which, although undeniably a good thing, is not going to have a significant effect on global warming.

If you thought that sounded vaguely encouraging, think again. The next sections on aviation and energy supply are as lame as you would expect from a Government that is planning to expand airports and build lots of new coal power plants. No wonder Charles Clarke (former Home Secretary) thinks that the Governments action on climate change is embarrassing(3).

The ‘greenest’ budget yet? Probably. But future budgets will need to be a lot better than this unless we want Downing Street to be underwater in the future.

1. Budget 2008, Chapter 6 – “An Environmentally Sustainable World”. This can be found here.
2. Budget to target cars with new taxes – Ben Russell,The Independent Online, 10th March 2008.
3. Clarke attacks Brown’s ’embarrassing’ green policies – Hélène Mulholland, The Guardian Online, 6th March 2008.

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