Leader-writers at the Independent on Sunday are excited. They warmly welcome the pressure that David Cameron has brought to bear on global warming and the fact that Labour are now joining the Tories and the LibDems in devising 'a new menu of eco-taxes'.
The taxes include:
- A Chelsea tractor tax that would see the annual road tax disc on a Toyota landcruiser, for example, raised from £210 to £630;
- A new mechanism whereby any reduction in the price of oil won't feed through to the petrol pumps but will produce more revenue for the Exchequer;
- A new 1p to 2p per mile pay-as-you-drive tax;
- VAT on EU airline fares that "would increase the typical £500 bill for family of four to fly on holiday to the Mediterranean to £587.50";
- New levies on inefficient white goods - washing machines etc - and a £1.50 levy on old-fashioned, energy inefficient light bulbs.
Reflecting on these taxes the blogger 'Dizzy Thinks' writes: "It's not so much a stick as a baseball bat, and there is no carrot." Tory environment spokesman Peter Ainsworth is quoted in the MoS as calling for green taxation to be executed in "an upfront way instead of bringing in stealth taxes by the back door." There's certainly no Tory opposition to green taxation. The 'clear blue water' between the Tory attitude to green taxation and Labour's attitude is that Tories will deliver offsetting cuts in business taxation. The LibDems are promising compensatory cuts in personal taxation. Labour has yet to make it clear whether it will use green taxes to raise total revenue or it will act to neutralise the effect on lower income families who will pay most heavily if these plans were enacted.
The Mail on Sunday is certainly unimpressed with Labour's green tax plans that could cost families with an average car £750 and some families could pay £1,300:
"The proposals we report today for wide-ranging new tolls and tariffs on everything from air and road travel to household appliances will have a negligible impact on the environment. What they will unquestionably do is add a further burden to a country overtaxed and overburdened by petty regulation."
Fraser Nelson in his unmissable News of the World column is even more unimpressed:
"Brace yourself for a tide of green guff next week as Westminster gets all pious about climate change. Talk to the Indians and Chinese guys... the UK generates just 2% of world green house tax emissions. Taxing Britain's poor out of the sky won't change anything."
Fraser is surely right about the limited usefulness of unilateral UK action on global warming but there are benefits for Britain's energy security - regardless of the climate change issues - of weaning ourselves off dependence on Iranian and Saudi oil and Russian gas (see here). The danger of arming Iran via the petrol pump worries some of us a little more than the longer-term danger of global warming but perhaps we end up at similar place in terms of policy action?