Green Taxes

David Miliband’s proposals for a Green tax package have been leaked in the Mail on Sunday.

I’m all for the intentions behind Green taxes of course.  The idea is that people will change their eco-bashing lifestyles if their budget is affected.  The unjust thing about these increases is that they tend to disproportionately affect the poorer families while the ‘well off’ families can absorb the taxes without having to make much of a reduction in their carbon-footprint, thus leaving the poor to “save the planet”.  That of course, is unfair.  I know Jesus said that the poor will inherit the Earth but I’m not so sure he meant it quite like this.  Or maybe he did.  I’m no Theologian.

Green taxes and charges do work to a point because many people do reduce their energy consumption as a result and again, I’m all for that, especially ones aimed at corporate levels (thinking air industry here).  But the taxes must take into account the social effects they will have on poorer families. 

I just want to concentrate on the idea of increasing taxes on the ‘in-house’ carbon footprint for now because I haven’t got time to cover taxes on transport and consumer goods.  I’ll cover them another time. 

If we are to have our fuel bills taxed more then low-income families and the elderly-impoverished should be given special arrangements.  For example, water – they should be exempt from extra charges for essential water usage, otherwise the water cutbacks that they be forced to make will put them at risk of ill-health.   Furthermore, they should be given home-improvement grants if their homes are not energy-efficient because cold Winter homes affect mental and physical well-being and provide a poor environment for a healthy and positive family life and it even puts children from poorer backgrounds at yet another educational disadvantage which has longer term implications; try doing your homework when you’re cold and miserable and your electricity has been cut off for non-payment so your source of light is a candle.  I’m aware that there are libraries and homework clubs etc. but these don’t come with unlimited access.  

But quite apart from the compassionate aspect of things, it seems to me that implementing measures such as government funds to make poorer homes more energy-efficient…fitting them with insulation, eco-friendly appliances and even throwing in a wind-turbine or a solar-panel, would make for logical policy which would have multiple benefits.  It would reduce their household emissions which in turn would reduce their energy bills thus relieving fuel poverty and increasing well-being.  The knock-on effects of physical and mental ill-health that would inevitably occur with Green taxes would gradually diminish which would also relieve the burden on the NHS and the tax-payer. 

The Policy Studies Institute (PSI) conducted a detailed and intense study in 2004 entitled The Social Impacts of Environmental Taxes: Removing Regressivity:

“Energy use by, and carbon emissions from, UK households are rising. A contributing factor is that household energy prices are relatively low, so that households have little incentive to implement the energy efficiency measures which are cost effective even at these low prices. The hypothesis underlying the first stage of the research was that the incentives to implement these measures could be increased by imposing a carbon tax on the household use of energy, and that redistribution through the benefit system of some or all of the revenues from the tax could prevent low-income households being made worse off.”

Read the report here.  It’s a long report but really worth the read.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by misslionheart on October 30, 2006 at 9:04 pm

    ‘Reduce, re-use, re-cycle’….


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