Green tax rage: the consumer hits back.

There’s a feeling among the tax paying consumer that climate change is being over-hyped and was exaggerated to make money. A significant number have many doubts about exactly how serious it really is.

A Ipsos Mori poll of 2,032 adults – interviewed between 14 and 20 June – found 56% believed scientists were still questioning climate change. The survey suggested that terrorism, graffiti, crime and dog mess were all of more concern than climate change.

Ipsos Mori’s head of environmental research, Phil Downing, said the research showed there was “still a lot to do” in encouraging “low-carbon lifestyles”.

Royal Society vice-president Sir David Read said: “People should not be misled by those that exploit the complexity of the issue, seeking to distort the science and deny the seriousness of the potential consequences of climate change.”

The Royal Society is the independent scientific academy of the UK and the Commonwealth dedicated to promoting excellence in science. They have a section entitled ‘Climate change controversies: a simple guide’. The guide looks at eight key arguments that are currently in circulation by setting out, in simple terms, where the weight of scientific evidence lies.

Behind this poll are a general public feeling, rightly, sceptical about climate change because it’s complex and they’re having to rely on scientists (another bunch of ‘experts’) telling them whats what. Add to that the head of steam that’s building up around another set of taxes, this time green taxes (and note that parking charges & fines are now lumped into this category) and it is not at all surprising that the public are on the defensive.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown needs to realise quite quickly that green taxes need to influence environment behaviour but not add to the overall burden of taxation for individuals. Those that take the environment message seriously could even see their tax burden fall.

If there’s a revolt at the polls over green taxes and environment measures in general, then the UK will have lost its momentum to make positive changes for the environment.

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17 Responses to Green tax rage: the consumer hits back.

  1. Pete Smith says:

    “The survey suggested that terrorism, graffiti, crime and dog mess were all of more concern than climate change”

    Funny that. If some of the possible CC scenarios come to pass I expect to see a lot more terrorism, graffiti, crime and dog mess 🙂

    I agree with you about favouring carrot over stick. People who insist on ‘business as usual’ should be taxed roughly as they are now, perhaps with a cap to hit the gross abusers/consumers, analagous to the 40% tax rate for high earners. People who ‘do their bit’ should get tax concessions. This would very likely prove a cost-effective way of addressing the problems, compared with large-scale centralised solutions.

    Whether people will embrace these ideas is another matter. It’s a small step from relying on experts to guide us through complex issues, to saying “Who do these guys think they are, telling me what to do?” Of course, that’s a more common attitude in the US than in the UK, but we’re working on it 🙂

  2. Pete Smith says:

    Interesting that you touch on the “lumping in” of parking charges and fines into green taxes. One of the sources of irritation that fuels argument over the London Congestion Charge is that it was originally touted as a way of freeing up road space and easing traffic flow, but exemptions were offered to alternative fuel vehicles. If it were truly a congestion charge, it would operate purely on the basis of vehicle size.
    The mixed message is compounded by the proposed introduction of Emissions Influenced Charging to the London Congestion Charging Scheme.

  3. matt says:

    I was at a council awards ceremony last week where my kids school won a Green School Award (for all the fantastic environment things done, not because it is painted green). The award is part of a wider campaign to clean up the borough.

    The lead councillor gave a speech which mentioned climate change as being a central plank of the borough’s environment message. He was reading from a prepared script, probably from some jumped up under graduate on a work experience post. The speaker was clearly struggling to enthuse or even sound convincing.

    I couldn’t help but think the recent drive to slap a parking fine on everyone in the borough might be dressed up as a climate change funding initiative, or whatevva! 🙂

  4. earthpal says:

    Pete, the Green tax is a very mixed message.

    I’ve often banged on about the usefulness (or otherwise) of Green taxes in terms of individual eco-behaviour.

    Gordon Brown has said in previous budgets that the money raised from Greent taxes will go towards Green initiatives. But that just goes to show that he is expecting most people to absorb the Green taxes rather than change their lifestyles to reduce their carbon footprint.

    And Green taxes tend to disproportionately affect the poorer families while families with decent incomes can afford to ride the raised taxes, hence continue their emitting behaviour.

    Well done to your kid’s school Matt.

  5. matt says:

    Thanks earthpal. We’re very proud of our school. A classic case of a community doing good.

  6. Pete Smith says:

    Matt,

    Yes indeedy, hearty congrats on your school’s eco-gong. Shame the visiting dignitary couldn’t show much enthusiasm. Perhaps he’s new.

    EARTHPAL,

    The idea of ‘ring fencing’ tax revenues seems to come up more and more nowadays, e.g. the guarantee that all speeding fines will go towards road improvements. Personally, I’d rather they paid for fixing the mess that roads, cars and their drivers have made, which isn’t quite the same thing.

    Ring fencing still has to be proveable and transparent. Would you just take the government’s word for it that all green taxes were used solely for green projects? Similarly, if we go down the green rebate route, which would tend to benefit lower income households, we need ways of verifying people’s green compliance, otherwise the system’s open to fraud.

  7. matt says:

    > Shame the visiting dignitary couldn’t show much enthusiasm. Perhaps he’s new.

    Arh no, we were at a posh little do up at Alexandra Palace. Funny thing is, they came and did a video of all the things our school do. Could only use one of the kids in any of the shots (my daughter) because written permission from parents hadn’t been obtained. What a fucked up world we live in. Anyway, nice video montage of our school achievements was seen at the awards, daughter picking strawberries (in one shot) and moi doing the video voice over.

    Then off to the pub to celebrate. Yes, quite a night was had. 🙂

  8. matt says:

    > Similarly, if we go down the green rebate route, which would tend to benefit lower income households, we need ways of verifying people’s green compliance, otherwise the system’s open to fraud.

    Environment Officer says (standing outside my house looking at roof);
    ‘ You sure those tiles are solar tiles sir?’

    ‘Yes of course’, I say ‘they’re very good aren’t they. Made to look just like old Victorian tiles Officer.’

    ‘Hmmm, OK, I’m not climbing up a 20 ft ladder. Get dizzy you see. That’ll be £3000 off your personal tax burden per annum for the next 20 years.’

    ‘Thank you Officer. Can I interest you in some holiday vouchers?’ replies a very happy me. ‘Or maybe a wee drop of whisky might take your fancy.’ 🙂

  9. Pete Smith says:

    Exactly Matt, you’re getting the hang of it already 🙂

    ££££ ker-ching! ££££

  10. the Grit says:

    Hi Matt,

    I tend to agree. Dog mess can be pretty bad. I’m working on a plan to use it to combat terrorism, two birds with one stone and like that. Once I get that out of the way, I believe there may be a way to use graffiti to slow down climate change. 🙂

    the Grit

  11. Pete Smith says:

    “I believe there may be a way to use graffiti to slow down climate change”

    Someone beat you to it Grit 🙂

  12. matt says:

    LOL. Nice ‘twister’ Pete.

  13. Pete Smith says:

    One does one’s best. Shame it takes so long for the interweb to propagate itself over to Six Bellies, Tennessee. By the time the Grit responds, we’ve all moved on and forgotten what was said.

  14. the Grit says:

    Hi Pete,

    Well, I hope not because that was a hoot! Oh, I’m not anywhere near Six Bellies. Closer to Buzzard Rock, if you want to be accurate. Of course, considering that I am closer to the center of the web than you, we get updates faster 🙂

    the Grit

  15. Wadard says:

    Can’t you offset carbon taxes with income tax cuts?

  16. matt says:

    Yes, more consumption taxes aimed at changing unsustainable consumer behaviour should allow income taxes to be reduced. But only if military spending is kept in check and we don’t get swamped with environmental/conflict refugees (thanks to the impacts of climate change) over the next few decades. Oh and of course there are CC mitigation costs such as flood defences ….

  17. Stephan says:

    Most ‘green’ taxes aim to be revenue neutral, that is the revenues from the tax go towards the cost of collection and the cost of mitigation. So there are no reductions of general taxation which is collected for ‘traditional’ reasons:)

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