Making fossil fuels more expensive can look like a difficult and unpopular decision for the government to have to make, but it will be necessary if we are to get rid of the worst offenders of greenhouse gas emissions and fix climate chaos.

At our September 2020 monthly online meeting, Josh Burke (London School of Economics), discusses the carrots and sticks involved in weaning Britain off oil and gas, and who in government we have to convince.

Watch a recording of the meeting above.

Key points:

  • Work with special advisers to government, and convince the Treasury dept – it’s a civil service/treasury culture rather than politically led. Policy makers are used to a rigid structure and a climate income plays out of the box.
  • Other European countries have pledged more money to tackle climate change – will the government earmark enough in the next budget? ‘They aren’t willing to take the difficult decisions to keep the cost low’ to UK citizens – a difficult decision such as a carbon fee that returns the money to the people ie a climate income.
  • UK Gov is looking at a UK emissions trading system linked with the EU. Failing that, a standalone ETS, then, failing that, a carbon tax.
  • Introducing any kind of taxation is a difficult ‘goose to pluck’ so governments like to keep the money and do what they like with it, but people will be more willing to accept higher prices if they aren’t any worse off financially (and, of course, fixing air pollution and climate change will mean calmer and healthier lives and long term prosperity).
  • A climate income would need to be supported by an advance payment (as Canada did) and effective communication eg save the extra money as you will need it for higher prices/switching to clean energy.
  • Coal has been (mostly) phased out through a combination of regulation, subsidy and taxation.
  • An upstream tax should be mostly employed (ie to business not consumer) but sometimes downstream is better at flagging the need for a change in behaviour – eg frequent flyer levy.

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