6 in 10 Brits support 'green taxes', Green Alliance survey shows

A survey of more than 2,000 adults in the UK has found that six in ten would support taxes that make environmentally damaging behaviours, such as frequent flying, more expensive.

The poll results come after the recent 'tax day' provided few climate-related announcements

The poll results come after the recent 'tax day' provided few climate-related announcements

Conducted by BritainThinks on behalf of think-tank Green Alliance, the survey asked for opinions on the Government’s approach to climate action, the current state of the UK tax system and behaviour change in the name of sustainability.

It revealed that eight in ten people believe that the Government should hold the main responsibility for tackling environmental issues, while six in ten think it is important to back changes in policy with lifestyle changes.

To these points, the survey went on to ask whether tax changes that would make high-carbon behaviours more expensive and low-carbon alternatives cheaper would be supported. Six in ten respondents said they supported such moves. 

Tax changes flagged by campaign groups, think-tanks, MPs and other bodies in recent months include higher taxes on high-emitting corporates, like fossil fuel firms; consumer-facing taxes on aviation and red meat, and VAT breaks for circular economy and e-mobility businesses.

However, the Treasury’s recent ‘tax day’ announcements provided few changes in these spaces. While there were updates on several resource-related taxes, the words ‘climate’ and ‘energy’ were not mentioned.

Green Alliance’s survey revealed that, in all approaches, at least half of the general public would support change. Unsurprisingly, people were keener to see higher taxes on big businesses than they were to see increases to the products and services they purchase regularly.

The think-tank is using the poll to support its own recommendations for tax reforms in the name of sustainability.

A major recommendation is for the Treasury to assess whether tax relief schemes, like those applicable to red diesel as an example, are compatible with the net-zero transition. Non-aligned schemes should be phased out. Replacement schemes, designed to make high-carbon behaviours more expensive, will need to be designed “more carefully” and with contribution from a greater range of stakeholders, Green Alliance is recommending.

The think tank said in a statement: “Tax is not the whole answer to environmental challenges. We also need new regulatory changes and significant public and private investment. But careful tax reforms are an important part of the broad set of policy measures that will shift the UK to a much more sustainable path and deliver the green recovery the Prime Minister has promised. “

It added that the tax system “is not being used to anything like its full potential” on climate change, with the Treasury losing £17bn annually in revenue and the UK off track to meeting its long-term climate and nature targets.

Further tax updates are expected from Chancellor Rishi Sunak later this year, as lockdown continues to lift.

Sarah George


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