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4 September 2007
New Research


The Case Against Further Green Taxes

The Case Against Green Taxes

The TaxPayers’ Alliance has released the first audit of environmental taxation in the UK alongside a new YouGov poll of more than 2,000 adults commissioned into public attitudes towards green taxes. 

The report applies the conclusions of the most prominent experts in the field of climate change research (from the International Panel on Climate Change to academics such as William Nordhaus, “father of climate change economics”, and Sir Nicholas Stern), and compares these studies’ recommendations of the price the UK should be prepared to pay to offset the cost of the UK’s carbon footprint with the actual level of green taxation.  Such a comparison is the only way of knowing whether environmental taxes address root problems or whether they are merely revenue-raising measures.

Covering the main “pollution taxes” of fuel duty; vehicle excise duty (road tax); the Climate Change Levy; Air Passenger Duty; the Landfill Tax and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the report investigates each of the green taxes and charges in turn, and reveals that each one has serious flaws.
The main conclusions of the report are:
    • In many cases, individual green taxes and charges are failing to meet their objectives, are set at a level in excess of that needed to meet the social cost of CO2 emissions, and are causing serious harm to areas of the country and industries least able to cope.
    • Taking an average of the most widely quoted official and academic estimates of the social cost of CO2 emissions shows that green taxes in the UK are already well in excess of the level they need to be to meet these social costs.
    • The social cost of Britain’s entire output of CO2 was £11.7 billion in 2005 but in the same year, the total net burden of green taxes and charges was £21.9 billion.
    • This means that green taxes and charges are already £10.2 billion in excess of the level they need to be to meet the social cost of Britain’s CO2 emissions. This excess is equivalent to over £400 for each household in Britain.
    • Green taxes are therefore already too high if they really are a means of internalising environmental externalities rather than simply revenue-raising measures.


NEW TPA YOUGOV POLL – Public distrust politicians on the environment

Most believe politicians are not sincere on green taxes

  • When asked what they thought the primary motivation was for new green taxes, 63 per cent agreed with the statement: “Politicians are not serious about the environment and are using the issue as an excuse to raise more revenue from green taxes.”  Only 20 per cent thought that “Politicians are serious about the environment and are bringing in new green taxes to change people’s behaviour to help reduce carbon emissions.” 

Huge number oppose new council recycling charges

  • A vast majority (77 per cent) disapprove of local councils placing extra charges for bin collection on top of council tax to encourage recycling, including two thirds (65 per cent) who would “strongly disapprove”.

Fuel Duty and Air Passenger Duty seen as unfair taxes

    • 60 per cent think that Fuel Duty is an unfair tax, compared with just 17 per cent who think it is fair.
    • 45 per cent believe that Air Passenger Duty is unfair, compared with 23 per cent who think it is fair.


Trebling Air Passenger Duty would not stop people flying

  • Concern for the environment will not lead people to change their behaviour unless there are significant tax increases – in the realm that most politicians would be unwilling to advocate.  When asked how much extra air passenger duty would have to cost before they chose not to fly, more than two thirds (71 per cent) would only stop flying if Air Passenger Duty was trebled from its current rate. If politicians only doubled it, 81 per cent of people would still choose to fly.

New green taxes must only ever be used to reduce other taxes

  • As a result of this scepticism, there was a very strong view that any new green taxes should not add to the already high tax burden but should be met with reductions in other taxes.  A majority (61 per cent) thought that if extra ‘green’ taxes were raised, “the extra funds should be used to reduce other taxes”. 

Public split on further green taxes

  • There is no majority support for moving towards additional green taxes.  When asked whether, “Generally speaking do you approve or disapprove of additional ‘green’ taxes on motoring and air travel?”, 46 per cent disapproved while 45 per cent approved and one in four people “strongly disapproved” against less than one in ten who “strongly approved”.
The report and poll has already been featured as the main story on the front-page of yesterday's Metro, the free-sheet with a daily readership of up to 2 million people.  The story was also reported by the Today Programme, and in the Daily Telegraph, BBC News Online, The Sun, Scotsman, Evening Standard and the Financial Times.  Matthew Elliott, the TPA's Chief Executive was also interviewed about the cost of green taxes by Newsnight, in the context of the announcement of the Conservative Party's commitment to match Labour spending plans.  You can watch it here (25 mins in).




The_daily_telegraph_2 - Britons 'pay more than £10bn too much in green tax' 


"Matthew Elliott, the alliance's chief executive, said: "The public are right to suspect the motives of politicians. Our research proves that they have been using green taxes as a revenue-raising measure. They are cynically trying to win support for new taxes by exploiting concern about climate change." - Telegraph




Financial_times - Calls for tax breaks to fight climate change


"The TPA polling, meanwhile, shows the depth of public hostility to specific green taxes - 77 per cent oppose extra charges for bin collection in order to encourage recycling and 60 per cent think fuel duty is an unfair tax." - Financial Times
The_sun - Green Greed
"But politicians do no favours to the save-the-Earth campaign with "green taxes" that voters reckon are a con to grab more of their hard-earned cash." - Sun

- Green taxes 'are making billions'

"Corin Taylor, research director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Green taxes and charges impose substantial costs on, amongst others, northern manufacturers and the NHS.  Green taxes in the UK are already well in excess of the level they need to be to meet the academic estimates of the social costs of carbon emissions. Every household is paying more than £400 extra in tax every year because green taxes are set too high.  UK taxpayers are already more than doing their bit to pay for the costs of pollution and additional green taxes would be completely unjustified." - BBC News 

Web Update


Recent highlights on the new TPA website


      • Burning Our Money: Another Bonus Farce - the unearned bumper bonus for the head of the wasteful Learning & Skills Council...

      • Burning Our Money: Non-job of the week - this week's job is a "Community Safety Officer" at Hackney council...

Office Update

The TPA's Campaign Director, Blair Gibbs is moving on to a new job at the end of September.  Blair said:

"I've had an incredibly enjoyable time at one of the highest-profile and most energetic campaigns in Britain.  We have achieved an enormous amount and are now a permanent presence in the UK political debate. Thank you to everyone who has helped the TPA grow and increase its profile over the last year, and special thanks to all the ordinary TPA supporters I have met and spoken to. It has been a real pleasure working daily for a cause I believe in and I wish the campaign all the best for the future."
Matthew Elliott, the TPA’s Chief Executive, said:

“It’s been a privilege to work with Blair over the past year. Without his help, we wouldn’t have become the most highly-quoted non-partisan group in the UK. The 215 media hits we got in August are a testimony to his hard work in generating media coverage for the campaign. We wish him all the best for his new job.” 
Anyone who is interested in joining the TPA's Campaign Team, in a full-time, salaried role, should contact Matthew at [email protected]. We are also keen to hear from anyone who would like to join us for any period up to a month between now and Christmas as an intern. Please email Matthew for further details.
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