The UK TaxPayers’ Alliance has released a report this week - The Case Against Green Taxes - which claims that the Government is already raising £10 billion more a year in green taxes than is required to cover the social cost of UK CO2 emissions.

According to the report, UK residents paid £21.9 billion in green taxes and charges in 2005, when the social cost of Britain’s output of CO2 was only £11.7 billion, and that this is just an excuse to raise money rather than a genuine attempt to reduce the UK’s CO2 emissions. At this point, I could get into a long-winded explanation on how to define the ’social cost’ of CO2 emissions, whose estimate of the cost of a tonne of CO2 to adopt, etc., but this is not the piece of information that really interests my, seemingly more simplistic, brain.

£21.9 billion in green taxes. That’s a lot of money, and that’s what interests me. How much went towards genuinely reducing the UK’s CO2 output in the future? When we pay green taxes, is the money that is raised actually spent on resolving green issues? Apparently it is difficult, if not impossible to get a straight answer to this question.

We can guess at the likely answer: some of the money goes towards reducing or offsetting CO2 emissions, but much if not most of it goes into a central pot to be spent on whatever is the most important issue of the moment. But what about the most important issue of tomorrow? I think we all know what that is, but we also know that the current UK government is doing way less than it could to address this particular issue.

£21.9 billion, and what do we get in incentives? A fund of around £80 million to ‘encourage’ us to invest in renewable energy sources. Electricity companies that pay us less for the electricity we generate that we pay for the electricity we use. No real encouragement to buy cars that pollute less (in France the government contributes towards the purchase of low co2 cars). No real encouragement to build zero emissions housing. No real incentive for businesses to improve their energy efficiency.

I fully realise that the major problems we have today can only be cured at government and corporate levels, and that to make things happen the ’stick’ is as important as the ‘carrot’. But right now the ‘carrot’ in question is one of those teeny tinned ones that taste of nothing, and isn’t big enough to go around. I am more than happy to pay Green Taxes, but:

  • I want to know what they are being used for
  • I want to see the results
  • I want them to be spent at all levels: government, business and consumer

We have a huge problem on our hands, and it will be fixed if we all work together.