12 Sep 2000
Friends of the Earth today urged the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to explain to the country that high fuel prices are needed for both the economy and environment. The recommendation is part of a five point plan published today by the environmental campaign group.
Roger Higman, Senior Climate and Transport Campaigner said:
Mr Blair should make it clear that high fuel prices are needed to tackle the terrible consequences of global climate change. This was the reason that the Conservative party introduced the fuel price escalator in 1993, and why Gordon Brown continued the policy until last year.
Mr Blair must make very clear that climate change is driving this policy and that,
if western nations don't act, millions of people around the world will die or lose
their livelihoods as a result of floods and hurricanes.
There are also huge economic and employment benefits to be had through energy efficiency and the development of renewable sources of energy. These are the technologies that society will need in the 21st century, and which the UK could be a world leader in. All that is lacking is the political will.
Friends of the Earth also called on the Government to use the money raised from fuel duties to improve public transport and do more to encourage motorists and hauliers to buy fuel-efficient cars and lorries.
Friends of the Earth warned that if fuel prices are cut, Britain's credibility in international climate negotiations, which will take place in the Hague in mid-November, will be seriously undermined.
1 Make the Environmental Case
Tony Blair must make the case for fuel taxes. We need to burn less oil if we are to fight dangerous climate change. If we want to see fewer catastrophes like floods in Mozambique and Nicaragua or hurricanes in the USA, then we must act now. Mr Blair is due to make a major environment speech in October (to the Green Alliance) and he will want to take a leading role at the world climate summit in the Hague in November. He should start speaking out now.
High fuel prices are also good for the economy, because they encourage efficient use of a scarce resource. If individuals on low incomes, or groups like farmers, face a crisis they should be given direct help by Government, not cuts in fuel taxes.
Going soft on fuel taxation is going soft on climate change.
2 Stop Panic Buying
Much of the current crisis comes from panic buying, with garages starting to run out of petrol. The Government must ensure that petrol supplies get through to garages. Pressure is needed on oil companies to ensure that supplies get through. Illegal blockades of refineries must be cleared where necessary.
3 Help Farmers and Hauliers Directly
The Government should give more help small and family farmers. They are well placed to provide the sort of high quality real food which consumers want, to contribute to the local economy and protect the environment.
The Government could also address the concerns of hauliers by joining the Eurovignette scheme,so that foreign lorries using our roads would pay extra tax.
4 Invest More in Public Transport
The Government needs to show that money from fuel duty is being spent on improving public transport, and facilities for people who cycle or walk. This crisis could have been avoided if New Labour had not stuck to Tory spending levels for its first three years in Government, while the take from fuel taxes continued to rise.
Gordon Brown is sitting on £4 billion of unexpected tax revenue because of the recent rise in crude oil prices. At least half of this money should be spent on buses and other transport services in rural areas. Fewer drivers on the road will lead to less congestion which will have enormous benefits for professional drivers.
5 Announce A Review of Motoring Taxation
The Government should announce a thorough review of motoring taxation by a Royal Commission.This should look at all aspects of taxation (including fuel duty, VED, congestion charging, motorway tolls) and at the real costs of motoring (social, environmental and economic). The best estimate is that fuel taxes raise £25 billion a year, but the environmental costs of road transport are about £42 billion a year. The polluter must pay: but taxation should be progressive: the richer the polluter the more they should pay.
Friends of the Earth
26-28 Underwood St.
Tel: 020 7490 1555
Fax: 020 7490 0881