Green Party Comment on the Budget
The Green Party believes the Chancellor should have done far more to ensure a sustainable environment and promote social justice in the recent budget
Brown's budget could have been the moment for a radical departure for deep-seated changes to avoid climate change, while building social justice. The political will was lacking, even though the public mood could have been with him.
The Stern Report only a few months ago gave him the analysis that would have backed measures to cut carbon emissions by an annual six to nine percent, or over 50 million tonnes a year. The pure economic case had been made – that investing now would stop enormous economic and social costs later – the sort of “prudence” that Brown claims to represent.
Instead, we had a derisory attempt to convince us that measures to cut 16 million tonnes over up to ten years would be adequate. The few specific measures are too minor to make the cuts we need in our greenhouse gas emissions, and the sad thing is the Chancellor knows it.
Our own analysis showed that one single measure – restoring the fuel duty escalator – would have made more carbon cuts that his entire measures put together. Doubling the Climate Change Levy could have had a similar effect.
Obviously these are radical measures and are not for the faint hearted. But they exhibit the depth of the changes we need to make, every year.
Another disturbing trend is Brown's policy of income tax cuts, benefiting the richer end of the income spectrum, in return for increased environmental taxation. The abolition of the 10p rate is simply a tax on the poor. This is not a strategy that can work.
By delivering increased spending power into the hands of those most able to spend it on highly-carbon intensive consumption, from large cars to frequent overseas breaks, he in fact risks expanding carbon-intensive activity.
Such measures are also highly socially unjust. Green taxation measures must neither be purely for tax purposes, nor punative. This is why the Green Party advocates widespread shifts from VAT to eco-taxes; that is, from a general tax on consumption to targeted taxes on carbon consumption.
Looking closer at Brown's proposals, we find exactly how superficial they really are in environmental terms.
Brown's budgets have not increased green taxes as a proportion of overall taxation since 1999. Since then, the percentage has dropped from over 9% to 7.3% last year. Now it has increased to 7.5%. Hardly a radical shift.
Brown's tinkering with GVED again shows how he has failed to see the need for real action. Green policies have to be more than generating headlines. 'Green taxes' have to be based on evidence that they will change people's behaviour and reduce carbon emissions – or they are just regressive 'taxes'.
There are simple things that Brown could be doing. Brown needed to to pledge to halt building of new motorways and runways. Withdrawal from Iraq, rejection of Trident missiles and nuclear power could have given us the funds to massively boost cheap public transport for all. He could sort out the chaos in the renewable grants system.
Rail needs to be be renationalised to cut the cost of new tracks and stations by two thirds and make rail travel easier. Investment in local healthcare, local schools and local jobs could make it easier for all to reduce their carbon footprint.
Unlike Brown, greens recognise that infinite growth is impossible on a finite planet. Ecological challenges from the greenhouse effect to deforestation to the destruction of fish stock, demand that we rethink basic assumptions. Local economies need to replace corporate globalisation. As Gandhi said 'there is a enough on this planet for everyones need but not everyones greed', this budget needed to secure a future for the next generation and prosperity for today's citizens.