Green Alliance says: end tax breaks for polluters

UK (The Guardian) – Ministers could
save £12bn of public spending over four years by clamping down on tax breaks
and support for polluting oil exploration, cement, aluminium and transport,
according to a report from green campaigners this week.

With all three major parties are
committed to cutting the projected £178bn budget deficit, and to a low-carbon
economy, a report by the high-level Green Alliance thinktank argues that many
spending cuts could achieve both ends. Perhaps the most controversial
suggestion is to halve the £10bn national and regional roads spending budget.

Other proposals include ending the
zero value-added tax (VAT) rate for aviation and shipping, and reducing tax
breaks on oil and gas exploration and the Climate Change Levy for big energy
users such as cement and aluminium companies, saving more than £5bn.

The report also says government
departments should step up energy-efficiency improvements for buildings and
vehicles to save £1.5bn over the four years, about one eighth of what they
spend on fuel.

The challenge of meeting government
efficiency savings was also revealed last week by the latest figures from the Department
for Energy and Climate Change showing that public-sector emissions rose 6.5% in
2008, despite a 2% fall nationally.

The three major environment and
conservation charities that commissioned the report – WWF, the The Royal
Society for the Protection of Birds and Greenpeace – argue that it would be
“reckless” to ignore the report.

Doug Parr, Greenpeace’s chief
scientist, said: “Britain
can be a world leader in renewable technologies and low-carbon transport but
only if we stop bailing out the dirty industries of the 20th century.”

David Norman, WWF’s head of
campaigns, said: “The hole in the country’s finances means, inevitably,
that measures to support the environment and tackle climate change will come
under pressure.

“This report is a grown-up response to this dilemma,
and demonstrates that with a clear vision and sense of purpose the UK and move
toward a low-carbon economy without profligate spending. Not to do so would
cost us too much in the long run.”