Thursday, March 13, 2008

The budget

The Tax Collector  by Marinus van Roejmerswaelen
The Tax Collector

The chancellor states with punitive measures that if we do not reduce our carbon emissions on a voluntary basis we will be made to do it.

The axe falls again on usual items such as alcohol, cigarettes and fuel.Cars that use a larger proportion of fuel will have a larger road tax to pay too. Higher fuel prices will mean higher costs to commute to work, higher costs for public transport and higher costs for food deliveries.

There will be a higher Climate Change Levy ( CCL) on utility bills, which you can avoid only if you opt for renewable energy. Currently the charge is 0.441p per KWH. Residential customers do not pay this as yet, but I am certain that it will come before long.

If you consider flying, you will be charged a green tax in the future to dissuade you from doing so.

All this at the same time as continuing with Nuclear power stations that are coal based??? as well as expansion plans for Heathrow Airport? The two messages seem in direct contrast to each other.

There are some people who say that social media, paying and shopping for everything online will do away with the need to travel at all. This century though families have been split apart across the country and continents and as a result visiting family will become more and more expensive too.

If you have a car and it becomes too expensive to run, there may feasibly be a moment where a car will have no value because no one apart from affluent people will be able to buy one. The idea behind higher fuel prices is that you will choose a greener car; what impact does changing your car have?
In my hypothetical world then, rising prices will mean a downturn on the economy as people will have less money to spend on luxuries. This may induce a recession. This may well have a worldwide effect , as countries who produce our luxury goods such as China lose orders. At the same time manufacturing industries in the UK are far and few between.

If your mechanism is to get away from it all and fly to warmer climates, you will be penalised. The credit crunch might well mean that your credit card stops you buying anything at all. You might want to drown your sorrows with a glass of wine which will cost you more too.You may feel trapped.

The message the budget brings along for me is that the government will persuade you to make different choices by introducing taxes on everything that in any way endangers their pathway towards a 60% reduction in 2050. By the way that figure has just been increased to 80%.

Is this achievable in another way? I know how I react when I am told to go on a diet and how my sons react when you tell them they cannot do something. The reaction you very often get is exactly the opposite. What is missing here is a positive engagement with climate change instead of punitive measures. At the same time, I understand why the Government is taking these measures it is just the way they are delivered that could be improved.

Being aware of climate change and taking control yourself in how to manage your carbon emissions is likely to feel more empowering than being told what to do. Guess the message given by our country is, if you don’t make different choices, we will force you too. This is not likely to work unless they model the same thing: by investing long term in renewable energy sources and stopping expansion of airports. The same situation as if a parent smoker would say to his child; stop smoking its bad for you whilst smoking when delivering the message. It still sounds like ‘ don’t do as I do, do as I say’ I am not sure that has ever brought out the best in people.

Engaging with climate change demands that we take stock and reduce our emissions. Indications are that these continue to rise despite best efforts. Punitive measures are one response; the other would be to encourage good measures. Those who actively reduce their emissions could be offered incentives. Why not reward good behaviour instead of punishing bad behaviour Maybe we have passed that line....

1 comment:

brad said...

Interesting post.

"Why not reward good behaviour instead of punishing bad behaviour"

I little of both would be a better approach, because you are right, people don't want to be forced to do things, especially if not following the leader's example.