Tax on 'Chelsea tractors' seen as tokenism
A day before the budget is unveiled, Gordon Brown's plan to increase car tax on fuel-hungry 4x4s has been dismissed as too little too late by NGOs who claim the plans let down the environment.Environmental groups are closely watching the chancellor's moves, with the budget expected to have important implications for climate change (see post-budget story).
A new tax bracket for 4x4s is set to be introduced in this week's budget and will see drivers of large-engined SUVs charged an additional £30 on their annual road tax bill.
Political analysts have interpreted the move as part of a 'prime ministerial' budget that shows the country the direction Brown would take Britain if and when he succeeds Blair.
The £30 implies the urban 4x4s will be officially frowned upon, but is hardly a prohibitive price tag on vehicles that often cost upwards of £30,000 when new.
Mark Strutt, climate campaigner for Greenpeace, told edie: "If Gordon Brown announces a new road tax band for gas guzzlers like 4x4's it will be a step in the right direction.
"However to make a real difference we need a substantial increase in tax for these vehicles - an extra £30 would be pathetic.
"If this government is serious about tackling climate change we need real incentives for people to choose cars that use less fuel."
Mr Strutt said the NGO's research suggested people wouldn't start taking fuel efficiency and emissions levels as a real factor when choosing a vehicle until taxation between different bands was more significant.
"There needs to be about £300 between each band to provide such an incentive," he said.
"Greenpeace would therefore like to see an increase of over £1500 per annum for cars in a new top VED band - those that emit more than 250g/CO2 per km."
The Greenpeace campaigner said the pressure group was also disappointed that the fuel tax escalator has been dropped and prices at the pumps will be essentially unaffected by the budget, rising only in line with inflation.
"Once again it shows a sad lack of commitment from the Government in taking the sort of measures necessary to tackle climate change.
"The real cost of motoring is now less than it was in the 1970's and the cost of public transport continues to increase.
"Freezing tax on fuel clearly shows that Tony Blair's words on the urgency of tackling climate change are nothing more than empty rhetoric."
Friends of the Earth have also spoken of their disappointment at the proposals.
"In a nutshell we are saying we that gas-guzzlers should pay at least £500 in tax so the Chancellor's plans to add £30 doesn't go far enough," a spokesperson told edie, adding that the NGO wanted to see Government introduce a new zero-rated tax disk for the most fuel efficient cars and address excessive fuel use in the home by offering council tax rebates to energy efficient homes and tax breaks for installing micro-generation systems.
Friends of the Earth director, Tony Juniper said: "Green taxes have fallen under Labour, despite promises to increase them when they came to power. At the same time UK carbon dioxide emissions have risen.
"The Chancellor must seize the green initiative by putting measures to combat climate change at the heart of his Budget. By encouraging people to save energy he will help tackle climate change and cut fuel bills.
"The Government is failing to reduce UK carbon dioxide emissions. A new
law is desperately needed to make the Government legally responsible for
cutting emissions by three per cent each year, with an annual climate
budget to ensure that we are kept on track.
The Government must stop dithering and take urgent action now. "
by Sam Bond