Public gives green light to eco taxes

Businesses that cause the most environmental damage should be made to pay for it, according to a survey of the UK public.

The Green Alliance NGO worked with research agency BritainThinks to understand the public’s view of using the tax system to encourage more sustainable choices.

It found sustainability is a primary concern, and the public believes those who cause the most environmental damage – whether businesses or individuals – should be held to financial account.

There is strong support for the principle of green taxes, including those that change the cost of different behaviours and of consumption through, for instance, changes to the VAT system.

A strong majority (80%) believe the government should be responsible for dealing with environmental issues, with 62% wanting higher government spending to address them.

Around two thirds (63%) feel they also have a responsibility to change their own lifestyle to tackle climate change with a similar proportion (61%) saying they have already made some changes.

Reducing energy use and buying fewer new products or more sustainable products are the most common changes people claim to have made. Just under a third (31%) say they have changed their diet to help tackle climate change, rising to 41% for those aged 25-34.

Barriers to action include cost and a lack of information.

Green taxes, which would help people and companies make more changes, are also strongly supported. Six in ten (59%) people support using the tax system to make environmentally damaging behaviours more expensive with only 12% opposing the idea.

Green Alliance said the findings back up the recommendations of the recent UK Climate Assembly, where 83% of its members supported green taxes on producers, products and services.

It said the findings give the government a clear mandate to start to green the tax system starting with the Treasury’s forthcoming Net Zero Review, due out later in 2021.

Last week, the government appeared to rule out the prospect of taxes on meat and dairy products on environmental grounds when it said it would look to meet its 2035 carbon budget through investing and capitalising on new green technologies and innovation, whilst maintaining people’s freedom of choice, including on their diet.

The survey was carried out as part of Green Alliance’s TransformTax project. It surveyed a representative sample of 2,076 members of the UK public.

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