The Government misses its emission targets at the taxpayers’ expense

August 06, 2009 2:45 PM

Yesterday the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) released a report that criticised the Government on its emissions policy. The report, Greening Government, suggests that the Government is unlikely to meet its 2011 targets for reducing CO2 emissions; carbon output has dropped by 6.3 per cent on 1999 levels – just half of its target of a 12.5 per cent cut by 2010-11.

The report was not all doom and gloom however. The Committee’s findings indicate that the Government has made improvements in some areas, such as transportation where carbon emissions have been cut by 10.3 per cent. The Treasury has also cut its gross emissions by 41.7 per cent. Unfortunately, these gains are made redundant by the fact that vehicle use accounts for so little of total Government emissions and the better performing bodies are more than offset by those that are less efficient. The Department for Children, Schools and Families, for example, increased its total CO2 output by considerable 16.3 per cent. It has been suggested that failing to meet these targets could cost the taxpayer upwards of £20m.

The true extent to which this makes any difference in the fight against climate change is unclear, as any emission reductions the UK makes will be countered many times over by emission increases in the BRIC countries. But what is clear is that the Government’s persistent commitment to these targets is likely to burn a considerable hole in the already threadbare pockets of the taxpayer.

Take for example the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), to be introduced in 2010. This carbon trading scheme will require 5,000 public and private organisations to purchase credits from a central fund at £12 per tonne of CO2. Those organisations that perform the best under the scheme will have funds from the pot ‘recycled’ back to them, while those who don’t do as well will receive less or no ‘recycled’ funds. Thus, by not meeting the desired targets the Government could be required to fork up £20m-£40m. This is taxpayers’ money that won’t be allocated to defence or schools.

The CRC is not the only a drain on the public purse; its parent scheme costs the private sector an estimated £500m a year, a cost that eventually falls on the taxpayer. When it was established, the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) allowed countries to set their own limits and then sell any spare credits. While other countries took advantage of this fact by imposing fewer restrictions on businesses, the UK imposed overly stringent controls. Because of this British firms are forced to purchase extra credits at added cost.  Not only this,  there is no evidence to suggest that this scheme in fact reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

EAC Chairman Tim Yeo said, "Leadership on these issues is crucial”, and he is right. The Government cannot have one standard for private firms and another for itself. What it should do is cease the implementation of ineffective policies and unrealistic targets. The CRC must be swiftly scrapped.

Yesterday the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) released a report that criticised the Government on its emissions policy. The report, Greening Government, suggests that the Government is unlikely to meet its 2011 targets for reducing CO2 emissions; carbon output has dropped by 6.3 per cent on 1999 levels – just half of its target of a 12.5 per cent cut by 2010-11.

The report was not all doom and gloom however. The Committee’s findings indicate that the Government has made improvements in some areas, such as transportation where carbon emissions have been cut by 10.3 per cent. The Treasury has also cut its gross emissions by 41.7 per cent. Unfortunately, these gains are made redundant by the fact that vehicle use accounts for so little of total Government emissions and the better performing bodies are more than offset by those that are less efficient. The Department for Children, Schools and Families, for example, increased its total CO2 output by considerable 16.3 per cent. It has been suggested that failing to meet these targets could cost the taxpayer upwards of £20m.

The true extent to which this makes any difference in the fight against climate change is unclear, as any emission reductions the UK makes will be countered many times over by emission increases in the BRIC countries. But what is clear is that the Government’s persistent commitment to these targets is likely to burn a considerable hole in the already threadbare pockets of the taxpayer.

Take for example the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), to be introduced in 2010. This carbon trading scheme will require 5,000 public and private organisations to purchase credits from a central fund at £12 per tonne of CO2. Those organisations that perform the best under the scheme will have funds from the pot ‘recycled’ back to them, while those who don’t do as well will receive less or no ‘recycled’ funds. Thus, by not meeting the desired targets the Government could be required to fork up £20m-£40m. This is taxpayers’ money that won’t be allocated to defence or schools.

The CRC is not the only a drain on the public purse; its parent scheme costs the private sector an estimated £500m a year, a cost that eventually falls on the taxpayer. When it was established, the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) allowed countries to set their own limits and then sell any spare credits. While other countries took advantage of this fact by imposing fewer restrictions on businesses, the UK imposed overly stringent controls. Because of this British firms are forced to purchase extra credits at added cost.  Not only this,  there is no evidence to suggest that this scheme in fact reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

EAC Chairman Tim Yeo said, "Leadership on these issues is crucial”, and he is right. The Government cannot have one standard for private firms and another for itself. What it should do is cease the implementation of ineffective policies and unrealistic targets. The CRC must be swiftly scrapped.

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