Environmentalists are calling Alistair Darling’s first Budget as Chancellor a ‘green smokescreen’, accusing him of giving with one hand, but taking away with the other.
While Mr Darling announced plans for ‘green’ taxes on gas-guzzling cars, he removed the 20p per litre discount on the use of environmentally-friendly biofuels.
He presented several measures aimed at tackling climate change, but critics believe he could have done more, and that many of the green-orientated hikes in taxes will act more as revenues for the Government than aid for the environment.
Despite his efforts, Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper believes his Budget “falls a long way short of what is required.” He said that “The Chancellor promised to put sustainability at the heart of today’s announcement, but he has merely tinkered in the margins.”
“Mr Darling should have used this Budget to tackle climate change – the biggest challenge the world faces – by making it cheaper and easier for people to go green, including tax breaks for greening the home, and grants for renewable energy.”
Mr Juniper offered that Friends of the Earth welcomes the green initiatives that were introduced, such as a car purchase tax, but that there is a lot more which could have been accomplished.
“Another freeze in fuel duty will further undermine the Government’s already weak green credentials.” he continued. “The cost of motoring has fallen over the past 10 years, and carbon emissions from road transport have risen. Raising fuel duty would encourage people to choose greener transport options. And the money raised could have been used to cut taxes on people and jobs, and helped to fund a range of green initiatives, including better sustainable transport options.”
The Chancellor said in his speech that there will be more funding for a Green Homes Service to “help people cut their carbon emissions and their fuel bills”, increasing funding for renewable energy so that it can triple by 2015.
He promised that next month will see the launch of an “ambitious household emissions reduction programme”, and while Communities Secretary Hazel Blears welcomes the Budget because it will “help us support peoples aspiration to own their own homes and ensure communities are built in a way that will protect the environment for future generations”, she is mindful that “we also need to look at what we should be doing to tackle carbon emissions from the rest of our buildings – our offices, shops and pubs.”
Emma Howard Boyd, Head of Socially Responsible Investment at Jupiter said that the Budget “shows how the Government continues to put weight behind targeted environmental issues through selected fiscal measures” but was disappointed that “the focus on voluntary action still remains. Actual measures were less aggressive than we had been led to expect from the build up.”
Meanwhile, Vicki Bakhshi, associate director of Governance and Sustainable Investments at F&C defended the Budget, recognising that “The Chancellor has obviously had to walk a fine-line between the long-term strategic imperative of tackling climate change and the shorter-term concerns about the weakening global economy.”
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