Citizens’ jury says no to taxes

A new public engagement forum on air quality has told Government that financial incentives rather than taxes should be used to improve air quality.

A citizens’ jury made up of 22 members of the public was recruited last year from a range of rural, urban and city environments across the West Midlands to take part in a discussion on air quality.

Recruited by the Department for Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (Defra), the jury was asked to consider what improvements they would like to see in air quality and how these should be achieved.

Last week, they met with Local Environment Quality Minister Jonathan Shaw to present their findings.

Three representatives of the jury handed over their report Articulating Public Values in Environmental Policy Development at a meeting with the Minister and his air quality policy team.

Mr Shaw said: “This innovative approach is a refreshingly direct way of engaging with people to understand their thoughts and concerns.

“I was very interested to hear about how the jurors found the process. I will now be looking at the report in detail and considering how it can inform our policy making.”

The jury identified the questions they wanted answered, and heard evidence from a range of air quality experts, with an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses.

They formulated recommendations based on six themes: education, technology, transport, industry, regulation, and lifestyle choices.

Key conclusions included:

  • industry should continue to strive to improve products and processes through technological developments
  • financial incentives, rather than penalties such as taxes, have a role to play in encouraging behaviour change
  • regulation should be a light touch so as to not disadvantage UK industry’s competitiveness or poorer individuals in society
  • Government has a wider role in the development of an infrastructure that will encourage and support behaviour change
  • Defra is expected to publish a formal response to the jurors’ recommendations.

    Dana Gornitzki

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