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Monday, September 10, 2007

Not so green

The Labour Government's environmental credentials have come under attack today with the revelation that green taxes have fallen for the past seven years and are at the lowest share of national income for a quarter of a century.

Using data from the Office for National Statistics, Liberal Democrat Shadow Environmental Secretary, Chris Huhne, has revealed that taxes such as fuel duty and air passenger duty account for only 2.7% of GDP, down from a peak of 3.6% in 1999 and the lowest since 1981, when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister.

The Guardian adds that the Labour government inherited the fuel duty "escalator" - whereby fuel duty went up by six percentage points over inflation each year - but abandoned it in 2000 after the fuel duty protests that almost brought the country to a standstill.

They say that the government is under fire over its policies on renewable energy and its handling of a consultation process over nuclear power. Labour has often claimed to be leading the world on climate change but figures have shown Britain to be well behind many other European countries in cutting emissions or the use of renewable energy.

It is difficult to disagree with Chris Huhne when he says: "Ever since the fuel duty protests in 2000, Gordon Brown has run scared of any tough decisions on the environment. Mr Brown has cut green taxes by a fifth even though they are crucial in changing behaviour away from fossil fuels."

"Sadly, all the evidence is that Mr Brown is not green and does not understand the key threat posed by climate chaos," Mr Huhne said. "Polluters must pay, and we should be shifting to tax pollution not people.

"He has cut flood defence and climate research budgets. He vetoed the plan to toll road freight, and he ditched the legal requirements on big companies to report their environmental impact in operating and financial reviews."

We have recently published a comprehensive strategy to combat climate change that includes increases in green taxes combined with cuts in income tax, in an attempt to change peoples' behaviour by encouraging them to use trains more and cars and planes less.

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