Here is the content of my letter to the Chancellor in support of Green Growth.
For the attention of the Rt. Hon. George Osborne MP
In the light of recent speeches by Barack Obama and Ed Davey on the need to tackle climate change, I wanted to write to you to say that the imperative for the UK is clear. We must act and we must act now. But at every turn on initiatives to introduce new taxation aimed at promoting green behaviour, improvements to Building Regulations, reductions in fossil fuel usage, increases in the amount of renewable energy, the message comes back from Ministers in other departments and from civil servants, that the Treasury says no. This is not just under your leadership, but under the leadership of many previous Chancellors. It appears to the independent observer that short term thinking is preventing your department from taking a leading role in promoting action where leadership is demanded by the electorate and by the scientific community.
Can I ask, even plead, on behalf of future generations, that you rethink your department’s position on the green economy, and take the necessary steps to consider how we can invest today to protect the future.
Take the example of health and safety, there has never been serious opposition to taxation on cigarettes and alcohol because society recognises its harmful impacts and accepts that we are all better off if we limit their consumption, and that the taxation from them can be used to fund the necessary treatments for those damaged by their behaviour.
There doesn’t appear to me to be much difference between cancer and carbon, both are invisible killers, and creep up on us unawares. The only difference is that in one case we do the damage to ourselves, and in the other we do the damage to future generations. Our generation and previous generations have already created the carbon that is damaging us, and which will damage our children and grandchildren and will continue to cause harm for many generations more. We continue to emit carbon in huge quantities, and are even planning to increase this by extracting more gas through fracking.
Can I suggest that by taking steps such as by revising the taxation system to reward those who produce less carbon and to tax those who produce a lot, you can send a clear message to the nation that there is a serious problem to be solved and that the Treasury will provide the firm direction that the market needs to help solve it. By balancing taxation measures, as has already been done with car emissions taxation, the result need not even affect the amount of tax collected, but the impact on behaviour in the market will be enormous.
It is already too late to avoid some of the impacts of climate change because your predecessors and their counterparts internationally did not act in time, even though they had plenty of warning. History will not judge them kindly.
Head of Sustainability & Innovation