Monday, November 12, 2007

Support for green taxes, believe it or not

Nobody likes taxes, but everyone accepts some level of tax is necesssary. Now, what if the taxes are so-called green taxes, aimed at tacklng climate change?

A new survey finds broad support for the taxes in the UK, depending on how they're introduced, and as a result a new body has been formed to "break the political logjam on green fiscal reform".

The survey

The survey was a national face-to-face opinion poll conducted for the Green Fiscal Commission by BMRB between 30 August and 5 September 2007. 1,010 British adults aged 15 and over were interviewed. The main findings were:
  1. There is net support in principle for green taxes - 51 per cent support vs. 32 per cent oppose.
  2. There is a significant increase in support if the revenue raised from green taxes is hypothecated to be spent on projects to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Support in this case rises to 73 per cent and opposition falls to 17 per cent.
  3. Support for green taxes rises even higher if other taxes are reduced at the same time. Support is 77 per cent vs. 9 per cent opposition.
  4. Favoured taxes to be reduced are Council Tax 32 per cent, Income Tax 31 per cent and VAT 11 per cent. No other tax named has more than 3 per cent.
  5. There are quite high levels of support for taxes on environmentally harmful activities:
    • 60 per cent v 20 per cent for air travel;
    • 48 per cent vs. 35 per cent for petrol (ie driving);
    • 48 per cent vs. 35 per cent for home energy use.
  6. Respondents in households owning a car are less likely than those in households without a car to support additional taxes on petrol, but there is still net support: 47 per cent vs. 37 per cent compared with 54 per cent vs. 25 per cent for non-car owners.
  7. Respondents were asked about their support for placing taxes on activities that damage the environment, such as driving, flying or not recycling. Support was 57 per cent vs. 24 per cent opposition. Levels of support for redistributive taxes (69 per cent vs. 19 per cent) and taxes on unhealthy behaviours (66 per cent vs. 18 per cent) were somewhat higher than for green taxes.
  8. There was widespread approval of an independent body to further investigate and publicly debate the issues around green taxation 72 per cent vs. 12 per cent.

The new commission

The Green Fiscal Commission is supposed to look at ways of shifting taxes from 'goods' like labour or profits which are cut, to taxes on 'bads' like pollution or the depletion of resources which are increased without an overall increase in taxation or public expenditure.

It will be chaired by Robert Napier, Chairman of the Met Office and former Chief Executive of WWF. Its Director is Professor Paul Ekins, Head of the Environment Group at the Policy Studies Institute, shortly to become Professor of Energy and Environment Policy at King’s College London.

Members of the Green Fiscal Commission:

  • Chairman: Robert Napier (Chairman, Met Office)
  • Greg Barker MP (Con): Shadow Environment Minister
  • Colin Challen MP (Lab): Environmental Audit Committee, All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group
  • Chris Huhne MP (Lib Dem): Shadow Environment Secretary
  • Lord Ron Oxburgh: Ex-Chairman, House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, ex-Chairman, Shell UK Transport and Trading
  • Lord Adair Turner: Non-Executive Director, Standard Chartered Bank (former Chairman, Pensions Commission, former Director-General, CBI)
  • Barbara Young: Chief Executive, Environment Agency
  • Allan Asher: Chief Executive, energywatch (energy consumer council)
  • Nick Mabey: Chief Executive, E3G
  • Peter Madden: Chief Executive, Forum for the Future
  • Ed Mayo: Director, National Consumer Council
  • Paul Myners: Chairman, Guardian Media Group, Ex-Chairman, M&S
  • Duncan McLaren: Director, Friends of the Earth Scotland
  • Bernie Bulkin: Chairman, AEA Technology (also Sustainable Development Commissioner)
  • Rita Clifton: Chairman, Interbrand (former Sustainable Development Commissioner)
  • Andrew Duff: Group Chief Executive Officer, RWE npower (and Ofgem Environmental Advisory Group)
  • Michelle Harrison: Director, Henley Centre HeadlightVision, Board Director, BMRB, Chair, Institute for Insight in the Public Services
  • Michael Roberts: Director, Business Environment, Confederation of British Industry (CBI)
  • Professor Nick Hanley: University of Stirling
  • Professor John Hills: LSE, Director Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion
  • Professor Tim Jackson: University of Surrey (also Sustainable Development Commissioner)
  • Professor Stephen Potter: Open University
  • Professor Andrew Sentance: University of Warwick, member of Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee and former chief economist, British Airways
  • Professor Kerry Turner : University of East Anglia

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