We are facing four crisis – climate and nature emergencies, the cost of living crisis and a global poverty crisis. A new report looks at how we can raise the money and drive the behaviour change needed to reduce emissions at home and help less well-off countries cope with climate change.
The cost of living crisis is mostly a fossil fuel crisis. Our over-dependence on fossil fuels means that the war in Ukraine has thrown us into an entirely predictable spiral of increasing costs. The solutions should be to reduce our dependence on oil and gas, boost renewable energies and insulate people’s homes – all the same things we should be doing to reduce climate emissions.
Last week I helped launch a new report I have written for Stop Climate Chaos Scotland on funding climate action here at home and making our fair contribution to international climate action. This requires billions of pounds to be mobilised every year.
Banning things, raising standards and setting targets are all important, but the report looks at using fiscal measures to fund and drive change. Fiscal measures cover everything from taxes, levies, duties and charges to subsidies, loans, grants and guaranteed prices.
Some measures change behaviour (and sometimes raise money too). The Landfill Tax has drastically reduced the amount of waste going to landfill over the last 25 years and is expected to raise £128 million in Scotland this year. Sadly other failures of policy mean that much of the waste not going to landfill has ended up going to incineration instead.
Behaviour changing measures – aimed at businesses or individuals – are a useful way to change our habits over time. The report looks at a range of these kind of measures from Workplace Parking Levies and free public transport to reforming agricultural subsidies and a big boost to home energy efficiency measures.
But the climate emergency is a national priority, so like other national priorities like the NHS, the bulk of the funding should come from the general taxation pot.
So the report also looks at raising more money, based on the idea that the biggest polluters should be contributing the most. It starts with the obvious measures of ending the £10-15bn annual subsidy to the oil and gas industry and increasing income tax rates for higher earners (who are also the higher emitters). It also looks at replacing the Council Tax with something fairer and more closely based on people’s wealth. It suggests the £13bn annual spend on goods and services by the public sector could be much better targeted to reduce climate emissions and encourage green businesses.
One of its recommendations is to create a sustainable wealth fund like that in Norway. Earlier this week Nicola Sturgeon promised something very like this for an independent Scotland.
Ahead of the next month’s climate talks in Egypt, over the last two days the Scottish Government hosted an international event on international climate finance. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland is calling on the Scottish Government to set up an independent, short-life working group to advise ministers on how to take forward some of the measures contained in the report, feeding into the next Programme for Government and the new Climate Change Plan.
A version of this blog appeared in the Scotsman newspaper on 13th October 2022.