Donnachadh McCarthy: We needed green action - we got Brown lethargy

Share

The main detail trailed before yesterday's Budget was that the Chancellor was to tackle 4x4s by increasing road duty on gas guzzlers by up to £210. Considering the average price of a Chelsea footballer's motor-car is over £100,000, I fail to see how an extra £45 a year rise in road duty can deliver anything other than a cheap headline.

If the Chancellor believes such vehicles are damaging our environment, then surely such vehicles should be banned by introducing a progressive legal maximum emissions limit for motor vehicles?

David Cameron's pitch for the centre ground occupied by the Liberal Democrats includes trying to steal their environmental clothes, and his admirable commitment to make an eco-house out of his own home has put the pressure on the Chancellor to prove his own green credentials. Gordon Brown's record to date has been one of failure to tackle the global environmental crises facing Britain.

Since he came to power, carbon dioxide emissions, traffic congestion, domestic rubbish and airline journeys have all continued their inexorable destructive rise. Despite the limited green tax tinkering in yesterday's Budget, the percentage of green taxes under his chancellorship have actually fallen from 9.8 per cent to 8.3 per cent.

This last year, government actions have been particularly damaging to the renewable energy sector. Taxes on pure vegetable oil used in diesel engines have doubled, millions of pounds paid by electricity bill payers as part of the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation, earmarked for investment in renewables, was purloined by the Treasury. Meanwhile, the major wind farm developers are in despair over the huge amounts demanded by the National Grid for providing the infrastructure for their connection.

In addition, the Government has closed its very modest Clear Skies grant scheme for installation of home solar panels and wind-turbines, causing great uncertainty and hardship for the new cottage industries installing such eco-systems. When Hurricane Katrina and the Kenyan and Somalian drought demonstrate the potential for climate change to cause devastating human misery, such actions defy logic.

Given his failure to date, what should Gordon Brown be doing if he is to stake a genuine claim to becoming an eco-friendly Prime Minister? There are three tools the Government can use: taxation, regulation and the creation of an eco-facilitating infrastructure.

The fuel escalator introduced by the Tories needs to be restored. Yesterday, the Chancellor even postponed the annual adjustment for inflation. Motoring has got cheaper in real terms over the past decade while public transport costs have soared.

Duties on alternative fuels such as bio-diesel and bio-ethanol should be scrapped. The current situation whereby greenfield developments are subject to lower tax than urban brownfield sites should be reversed to make it more attractive to developers to develop sites in urban areas, thus reducing travel needs. Councils should be required to construct comprehensive cycle networks, require all new developments to be zero carbon and instigate compulsory domestic and commercial waste recycling.

Internal UK flights need to be fairly taxed, and the Air Passenger Duty which under Brown has actually fallen, should be raised significantly.

Friends of the Earth estimate that the airline industry is responsible for 6 per cent of UK CO 2 emissions, but the airlines avoid £9.3bn worth of taxes that other sectors in the economy have to pay. That is equivalent to a £300 subsidy from every taxpayer.

Seven per cent of the country's electricity is used for lighting, so why is it still legal to sell incandescent and halogen bulbs, which use up to 75 per cent more electricity than energy-saving bulbs? The Government, and not the nascent wind industry, should be paying for the adjustment of the National Grid to take advantage of our natural renewable energy resources.

Yesterday's Budget was not the "Green Budget" spun by the Chancellor's briefers; instead, it was more of the usual brown institutional lethargy in the face of the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. What is needed is nothing less than an emergency eco-Marshall Plan if we are to avoid the doomsday scenario recently envisaged by James Lovelock. Tragically, with the global climate-chaos clock ticking, Gordon Brown has failed to deliver.

www.3acorns.co.uk

The writer is a home and business eco-auditor

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mary Christmas: the Bethlehem story is Mary's moment, when a poor peasant girl gives birth to the Son of God in a stable  

The appeal of the Virgin Mary: A supernatural hope at a time of scepticism

Peter Stanford
 

Letters: Why Cameron is wrong about EU child benefits

Independent Voices
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'