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Government Policy on Climate Change

By: Mike Watson - Updated: 17 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Carbon Emissions Carbon Trust Government

The government have followed a forthright policy in tackling climate change since the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997. Under the agreement the government has agreed that the U.K. will meet tough targets to reduce carbon emissions incrementally between now and 2020. The terms of this agreement are due to end by 2012, after which another agreement (the loose terms of which have been agreed) will be put in place.

At the money we are committed to cut of between 26 and 32% in carbon emissions by 2020. The government loosely takes the attitude that much of the responsibility to cut carbon emissions must be taken by the individual, but that some gentle coercion in the form of financial incentives and penalties are employed in order to help persuade the individual to make the right choices at home and work. Inevitably this has involved a certain amount of pressure being put on businesses in the form of the ‘Climate Change Levy’ –a tax on the amount of fuel your company or organisation uses each year.

The Climate Change Levy is chargeable on each kilowatt hour used and is payable on electricity, coal and gas. Heavy carbon users can have a significant discount made on the levy they pay providing they agree to reduce the carbon use in other ways and adhere to a carbon reduction agreement.

Criticisms of Government Policy

The government have been criticised on several counts for their use application of the climate change levy, chiefly as it is seen as too little too late. Interestingly even businesses themselves criticise the government on this count with many wishing to do more to cut their emissions, but not knowing how to do so.

Whilst the climate change levy goes some way to drawing a direct constellation between profit and cutting emissions more could be done, it is felt to encourage wider changes in technology used. Tax relief on purchases aimed at reducing admissions would be particularly useful.

Further to this the government can be criticised on the basis of the gap between the help they offer homeowners and that which they offer businesses. All new homes will shortly come with a gauge as to their climate efficiency, similar to that available for white goods, yet no such scheme exists to help businesses choose a premises or to choose much of their machinery or who they do business with.

On the whole it is felt that if the government are not going to wholeheartedly force people to change (which is good, because too much coercion would be very unpopular) they could do more to help businesses make their own choices. That said, the Carbon Trust do offer financial and practical help to businesses wishing to cut down on their carbon emissions.

It does seem that the government are committed to involving business in reducing overall emissions of carbon, although without a more clear leadership from them it seems businesses will struggle to fulfil their duty. Real change will probably need to come from the top up if we are not all to stand around waiting for someone to act first.

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