THE TELEGRAPH – 22/08/2010

This article suggests that a number of Local Authorities are exploring options for introducing a workplace parking levy, including those in Bristol, York, Devon, Hampshire, Leeds, Bournemouth, South Somerset and Wiltshire. The article expresses scepticism regarding the motivations behind such a levy; whether it is meant as a means for tackling congestion and cutting carbon emissions, or rather as a mechanism primarily for revenue-raising. Read the article

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THE SCOTSMAN – 25/08/2010

This article reports on the findings of a survey of over 1000 residents commissioned by the Edinburgh city council, revealing a decline of 8% in the number of people that said they could always afford to heat their homes. Over 80% of the respondents expressed concern about rising energy bills, and only 72% said they could always afford to heat every room in their home. Read the article… 

A separate article in the Guardian indicates that Suffolk, Northumberland and Nottinghamshire contain the most areas of fuel poverty in rural England. It describes a new energy scheme, the ‘Future of Rural Energy England’ (FREE), which is funded by energy company, Calor. The scheme aims to work at the community-level to provide tailored advice to those paying out the biggest percentage of their household incomes on fuel, enhancing understanding of the energy options available to them. Working with National Energy Action (NEA) and the Rural Community Action Network (ACRE) across England, Calor will find energy officers who will offer independent advice to off-gas grid households and communities in order to help improve energy efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint. View the FREE webpage

THE TELEGRAPH – 26/08/2010

This article highlights comments made by the Bishop of Jarrow, that he and older people who have jobs ‘simply do not need’ the annual £250 Winter Fuel Payment, pledging instead to give his payment to a church charity.

This builds on calls from the Consumer Council for an urgent review of the Winter Fuel Payment to ensure it adequately targets people living in fuel poverty. Aodhan O’Donnell, director of Policy and Education at the Consumer Council, states that ‘the fact remains that many who don’t need it, also get it. If we are serious about tackling fuel poverty in an era of reduced Government spending, we need to make sure that the money spent is making an impact it needs to eradicate fuel poverty’. Read the article and a related article in the Spectator.

PRESS RELEASE – THE EUROPEAN LOW FARES AIRLINE ASSOCIATION – 26/07/2010

The European Low Fares Airline Association (ELFAA) has issued a press release announcing strong opposition to a proposal by the German government to introduce a tax on each individual airline passenger from 1st January 2011. Concerns are raised about the risk of this measure undermining Germany’s economic recovery and increasing the cost of mobility for both consumers and businesses. It suggests independent studies have indicated a potential loss of 10,000 jobs as a direct result of such a tax, and argues that there is negligible evidence that the tax will have the desired effect of providing an incentive for pro-environmental behaviour. Read the press release…

THE VICTORIA TIMES COLONIST – 29/07/2010

Amidst increasingly limited prospects for government action on climate change, this article highlights the unique success of British Columbia’s climate policy path since its introduction of North America’s first carbon tax shift. Though initially met by a host of concerns relating to business competitiveness and potentially adverse distributional impacts, a preliminary assessment of the tax two years’ on suggests it seems to be working. The tax puts a price on carbon emissions and then returns the revenues as tax cuts for individuals and businesses. Initial results indicate that B.C’s economic growth in 2009 – the first full year with the tax in effect – was higher than Canada’s national rate, and that unemployment rates are below the national average and did not increase following implementation of the tax. During 2008 and 2009, the tax raised $846 million. The value of the offsetting cuts was nearly $1.1 billion over these two years, such that the net tax reduction for tax payers was approximately $230. While the economic effects have been negligible, the environmental impacts are anticipated to be positive, but it is too early to determine the greenhouse gas reduction as yet, in part because Canada has not yet released carbon emissions data for 2009 and in part because the tax is still relatively low. There are however many examples illustrating that people have used less oil, gas and coal as the prices have risen. Read the article

THE TELEGRAPH – 10/08/2010

This article highlights the announcement made by the Coalition Government that fines will be imposed on companies that fail to register their energy use by 30th September. Those that do participate in the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) scheme by declaring their energy use will also be charged for every ton of greenhouse gas produced. The CRC was introduced with the aim of creating a financial incentive to cut energy use, giving bonuses to organisations that achieve the biggest reductions, funded by the penalties imposed on those with the worst record. Surveys have indicated limited awareness amongst many businesses that they should be taking part in the scheme, or even of its existence. Many business leaders are opposed to the scheme, denoting it as complex and bureaucratic. WSP Energy & Environment consultancy has predicted that approximately 7,500 businesses are likely to miss the September deadline. Read the article and a related article… 

A subsequent article highlights an analysis by PricewaterhouseCooper indicating that companies will need to have completed the paper work for participating in the scheme by 2nd September in order to allow for the necessary checks in time for the deadline.

DAILY MAIL – 21/07/2010

This article comments on plans being considered by the Coalition Government to increase the rate of stamp duty on properties that do not meet energy efficiency targets, an initiative that would be introduced alongside the Government’s Green Deal. Under this deal householders would be offered new insulation, double glazing or replacement boilers by energy companies, local councils or DIY chains from 2012, with the money spent claimed back from savings made in energy bills. Amidst concerns that such incentives will not be sufficient to motivate buy-in to the scheme, it has been proposed that variable stamp duty rates based on the energy efficiency of homes could provide an additional nudge. To avoid paying the higher stamp duty, a home would need to be upgraded to at least a band E energy performance certificate rating. Read the article… 

A similar article in the Guardian suggests this proposal could add £850 to the cost of buying a typical home, and require owners to spend at least £15,000 on improvements before they would trigger a rebate. If homeowners sharply improved the rating within a year – through enhancing insulation measures or perhaps through adding solar panels – they may be eligible for reclaiming up to twice the amount of the green tax from a Green Investment Bank. The article highlights concerns raised by the property industry that such a measure would hit the young and low paid, and hinder the industry’s already fragile recovery.

GLOBAL TIMES, CHINA – 23/07/2010

This article in China’s Global Times highlights the confirmation by the deputy head of China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection that ministries are collaborating on an environmental tax, and it is expected that some local governments in Hubei, Beijing and Jiangxi will pilot this policy instrument soon. It does, however, question whether the so-called double dividend of a carbon tax would be realised in China, highlighting that China lacks the necessary quantitative and economically optimised design of taxation, and the pressure to create one. China does already have a number of pollutant charges, but these are not considered effective in curbing environmentally damaging activities, and are often mired by close ties between powerful polluting companies and local government, who are charged with enforcement. Read the article…

THE GUARDIAN – 13/07/2010

This article highlights the result of a recent analysis by the Energy Saving Trust indicating that the majority of the UK’s least energy-efficient homes could be brought up to near-average green standards for less than £3,000. Based on available data, 17% of English homes in 2008 were in the F and G bands of energy efficiency – the lowest grading on an energy performance certificate. Yet, 84% of these homes could be brought into the E band by installing, for example, new loft and cavity wall insulation or a modern boiler. Read the article…

THE SCOTSMAN – 18/07/2010

This article suggests that households are paying £84 a year in ‘hidden taxes’ on their energy bills as a result of government environmental policies such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target, the Community Energy Saving Programme and the Renewables Obligation. It criticises the additional levies that will result from policies launched under the previous government, which it says are expected to add a further 6% in levies over the next decade, and raises particular concerns about the implications of these levies for fuel poor households. Whilst the article highlights the need to grasp the longer-term implications of these levies – that is, that ‘the only way household energy bills are going is up’ – it does not seem to consider the climate change impacts that would result without them. Read the article…