Sunday, November 15, 2009

Britain Supports EU Commision Raise of Green Taxes in 2010 Even Though Green Taxes Are Turning Britons More Skeptical About Climate Change

Global warming is not our fault, say most voters in Times poll

The Times UK

Ben Webster, Environment Editor, and Peter Riddell

November 14, 2009

Less than half the population believes that human activity is to blame for global warming, according to an exclusive poll for The Times.

The revelation that ministers have failed in their campaign to persuade the public that the greenhouse effect is a serious threat requiring urgent action will make uncomfortable reading for the Government as it prepares for next month’s climate change summit in Copenhagen.

Only 41 per cent accept as an established scientific fact that global warming is taking place and is largely man-made. Almost a third (32 per cent) believe that the link is not yet proved; 8 per cent say that it is environmentalist propaganda to blame man and 15 per cent say that the world is not warming.

Tory voters are more likely to doubt the scientific evidence that man is to blame. Only 38 per cent accept it, compared with 45 per cent of Labour supporters and 47 per cent of Liberal Democrat voters.

The high level of scepticism underlines the difficulty the Government will have in persuading the public to accept higher green taxes to help to meet Britain’s legally binding targets to cut carbon emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050.

The recession appears to have made tackling climate change less of a priority for many people. Only just over a quarter (28 per cent) think that it is happening and is “far and away the most serious problem we face as a country and internationally”, while just over half (51 per cent) think it is “a serious problem, but other problems are more serious”.

Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at the Met Office, said that growing awareness of the scale of the problem appeared to be resulting in people taking refuge in denial.

“Being confronted with the possibility of higher energy bills, wind farms down the road and new nuclear power stations encourages people to question everything about climate change,” she said. “There is a resistance to change and some people see the problem being used as an excuse to charge them more taxes.”

Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said: “The overwhelming body of scientific information is stacked up against the deniers and shows us that climate change is man-made and is happening now. We know that we still have a way to go in informing people about climate change and that is why we make no apologies about pushing forward with our new Act on CO2 campaign.”


Widespread scepticism on climate change undermines Copenhagen summit

Peter Riddell, Ben Webster

The UK Times

November 14, 2009

Only a quarter of people believe that climate change is the most serious problem that the world faces, according to a poll for The Times.

The finding suggests that the public is unconvinced by the Government’s message that climate change is “the moral issue of our times” and that we must embrace urgently a low-carbon lifestyle.

The poll, undertaken last weekend, found that only two in five people in Britain accept as an established scientific fact that global warming is largely man-made.

The high degree of scepticism undermines the Government’s position at the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen next month. Gordon Brown will struggle to persuade developing countries that he has public support at home for drastic measures to reduce carbon emissions. Developing countries are threatening to walk out of the summit unless rich nations, including Britain, commit to making much greater cuts in carbon emissions than they are currently promising.

The poll results indicate that voters are not yet convinced of the need for significant sacrifices and will resist new green taxes.

Conservative voters are consistently less likely to be worried about global warming than other groups and are less supportive of measures to reduce emissions.

There is also a small gender gap, with women slightly more supportive of new green taxes than men.

Overall, 83 per cent accept, from what they have heard, that the Earth’s climate is changing and that global warming is taking place, with 15 per cent disagreeing.

Even among the majority that believes in global warming, only half believe that it is “now an established scientific fact that climate change is largely man-made”.

Among the public as a whole 41 per cent agrees that it is established that climate change is largely man-made. Tory voters are more dubious, at 38 per cent, than Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters (at 45 and 47 per cent).

A third of the public (32 per cent) agree that climate change is happening but believes it has not yet been proven to be largely man-made, while 8 per cent think that the view that climate change is man-made is environmentalist propaganda. Fifteen per cent believe that climate change is not happening.

Only 28 per cent believe that climate change is happening and is “far and away the most serious problem we face as a country and internationally”, while 51 per cent think that it is “a serious problem, but other problems are more serious”.

Only 3 per cent believe that climate change is taking place but is not really a serious problem.

Opinion is split about how the risks and possible consequences of climate change have been presented — 31 per cent believe that these have been presented “proportionately”; 32 per cent “understated”; and 33 per cent “exaggerated”.

On specific policy options the poll shows an increase in support compared with three years ago for new taxes on air travel intended to reduce the number of flights people take, and for raising the cost of motoring to encourage people to drive less.

Compared with November 2006, there has been a reduction in support for a much higher tax on cars that use a lot of petrol and emit high levels of carbon dioxide.

There is now a clear majority of 57 to 40 per cent in favour of new air travel taxes, up from a split of 50/46 per cent in 2006. The highest support is among women, professionals and managers, and Liberal Democrat voters.

Despite an increase in support, a majority still opposes increases in the cost of motoring, by 53 to 44 per cent. By contrast, despite a reduction in support, a big majority of 68 to 29 per cent support much higher taxes on cars that use a lot of petrol. Men (64 to 34 per cent) are much less enthusiastic than women (72 to 24 per cent).

A very big majority (87 to 11 per cent) support new building regulations for all new houses to meet the highest standards of insulation by making more use of renewal energy such as solar power, even if this increases the cost of new homes. Middle-class people back such a change much more than working-class groups.

The public clearly opposes, by 52 to 41 per cent, calls for the cost of meat to be raised because the farming of cows and pigs is a key contributor to methane emissions, a cause of climate change. Opposition is highest among men and Conservative voters.

Voters very strongly support, by 69 to 26 per cent, proposals to set limits on carbon dioxide emissions and to make companies pay for their emissions, even if this results in higher prices for manufactured goods and energy.

A Met Office survey conducted in August found that the proportion of people saying they knew little or nothing about climate change had grown from 32 per cent in 2006 to 47 per cent.

Mike Childs, head of climate change at Friends of the Earth, said that the continuing scepticism will make it difficult for politicians to obtain public support on measures to take climate change.

“If you are going to tackle climate change in places like the UK it means having to take difficult political decisions when we know that what we put out into the atmosphere now will not have an impact here for 20 or 30 years,” he said. “There will be difficulty in obtaining public support for some of the challenging decisions politicians have to take in the short term.”

There was little political risk in taking unpopular actions, though, because all the main parties were committed to tackling the issue, he said.

Mr Childs said that there was disproportionate media coverage of the view of scientists who challenged the link between climate change and human activity. The vast majority believed that the relationship was as strong as that between smoking and cancer.

Populus interviewed a random sample of 1,504 adults aged over 18 by telephone between November 6 and 8. For more details go to

EU carbon tax on new Commission's agenda early next year


November 4, 2009

The new European Commission will start work at the beginning of next year on a revision of EU energy taxation, designed to introduce CO2 as a fiscal element, a high-ranking EU official said today.

Proposing a revision of the 2003 Energy Taxation Directive will be on the agenda of the new Commission, "hopefully early in the New Year," Thomas Carroll, head of unit at the Commission's directorate-general for taxation and the customs union, told a roundtable organised by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).

The outgoing Commission had hoped to see the proposal adopted already, but it became clear that member states had no appetite for controversial tax proposals when ratifying the Lisbon Treaty was the highest priority.

"We were told that anything that might jeopardise the right results should be kept back," Carroll said.

The revised directive will seek to bring current energy taxation in line with the EU's climate objectives by obliging member states to levy a CO2 tax on heating and motor fuels that do not feature in carbon trading, a draft shows (EurActiv 29/09/09). In addition, it seeks to iron out any overlaps with the EU's emissions trading scheme (EU ETS; see EurActiv LinksDossier) to avoid double-charging industries.

But Carroll stressed that EU countries would be free to choose a higher level of taxation than the minimum set by the EU.

"We are simply trying to create a level playing field and provide the tools in a Community framework," he said.

Carroll said that the Commission was currently working on the assumption that the carbon-related component would not increase the total level of energy taxation. Rather, the draft simply recasts the minimum tax rates for two components, one based on CO2 and the other on energy content.

"At the moment, this is just a working hypothesis," Carroll said. "Whether that will be the position of the new Commission, I don't know."

The official pointed out that the EU executive had wanted to avoid creating headlines in member states accusing the EU of being about to impose yet another new tax on citizens.

But the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) criticised the low rates, saying that they would not have the desired effect of persuading consumers to switch to more energy-efficient fuels. The Commission estimates that a carbon price of €39 per tonne of CO2 will be necessary to reach the EU's binding 2020 emission reduction target.

Catherine Pearce, a policy officer at the EEB, stressed that taxation is still a "dirty word" for both consumers and companies and appropriately informing them about any changes to the current framework will be crucial.

"How such a measure is communicated is key, and I think it's where many member states have failed in the past," she said.

The EU executive has a bad track record of getting tax proposals through as member states refuse to relinquish their exclusive competency in the area. Carroll noted that although a previous proposal to tax CO2 emissions from cars failed in 2005, many member states had put in place similar national schemes since then.

"The messeage got through. Unfortunately it's been done in an uncoordinated manner," the EU official said.

He added that even within the Commission, it is difficult to get a taxation proposal out as commissioners from the less prosperous new member states are always looking at the impact of taxes on their societies.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Do Obama and the Democrats Walk in Lock-Step With Europe's Socialists on Regulatory and Tax Policy??

ECONOMY: EU Divided Over Regulation

Analysis by David Cronin

Inter Press Service

February 13, 2009

BRUSSELS, Feb 13 (IPS) - The global recession has exposed the ideological fissures at the highest level of officialdom in the European Union.
Joaquin Almunia, the European commissioner for economic affairs, expressed a widely held view Feb. 11 when he declared a "need for more ambitious regulation" of financial services, implying that the way this sector has largely been exempt from stringent rules has contributed to the near collapse of the international banking system.

But Almunia, a Spanish Socialist, does not hold the portfolio in the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, which would enable him to come forward with the kind of proposals he deems necessary. Instead, responsibility for this area belongs to Charlie McCreevy, the single market commissioner, who has emphasised his antipathy to far-reaching regulation.

Since taking up his current post in 2004, McCreevy has repeatedly recited the mantra 'less is more'. "For far too long the EU has been adopting rules at EU level, simply for the sake of having rules at that level," he told a conference in Cape Town during 2007. "Once adopted the rules have been left to gather dust on the statute book. My approach is a different one. We should adopt fewer, better quality rules and then devote our energy to making sure they are properly enforced."

Irishman McCreevy is studying a range of options for how hedge funds should be regulated, and has been tasked by the Commission with presenting a plan for doing so before elections to the European Parliament this coming summer. Yet while he has invited comments from all interested parties as part of a 'public consultation' exercise, he has maintained that he would prefer to see these investment funds subject to voluntary codes of conduct, rather than binding laws.


Some economic analysts have contended that hedge funds are at least partly culpable for creating the sub-prime crisis in the U.S. and for endangering banks on this side of the Atlantic by engaging in a highly speculative activity known as short-selling. Nonetheless, McCreevy said in late 2008 that hedge funds generally play a positive role in modern finance.

"I think he is finding it very hard to accept that his beloved unregulated market has failed," said Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, the former Danish prime minister and now a Socialist member of the European Parliament. "He has certainly been trying to delay and where possible avoid regulation on hedge funds and private equity. I can't say what lessons he has learned from the crisis but he does not seem to have changed his dislike of market regulation, which is a pity because practically everyone else has realised that better regulation is unavoidable and necessary. I suspect we will encounter further efforts by him to put off regulation."

Although hedge funds were banned in Germany until 2004 because they were considered too risky, McCreevy encouraged their development in Ireland, where he was finance minister from 1997 to 2004. And by the time their global value was estimated at 2.5 trillion dollars in the summer of 2008, the International Financial Services Centre in Dublin stood alongside London and New York as one of the major onshore centres of hedge funds in the world.

"Mr McCreevy behaves like a lobbyist for the hedge fund industry," says Peter Wahl from World Economy, Ecology and Development (WEED), a German anti- poverty group. "He has an extremist position and is a full believer in the casino style of capitalism that has now collapsed."

["WEED (World Economy, Ecology & Development) was founded in 1990 as an independent non-governmental organisation with offices in Berlin and Bonn. Weed is active in the areas of International Financial System and Debts, International Trade and Investment Policy, European and International Environmental and Development Policies.

Globalisation is a process with tremendous historical implications. It is not only an economic process but also has political, cultural and social dimensions. Globalisation changes the structures of the world economy and international relations and affects the everyday life of people everywhere. So far, globalisation has been following the paradigm of neoliberalism: liberalisation, deregulation, privatisation and free market access have been the dominant dictum. The results are many losers and only a handful of winners. Social justice and ecological sustainability are being subordinated to the interests of Global Players, shareholders, investors and creditors. WEED is not going to accept it that is why it exists.

WEED stands for a different kind of globalization and campaigns for a change in international economic and environmental policies. Justice, human rights and the environment have to be put before profits. WEED sees itself as a consistent lobby for justice in North-South relations - in Germany, the EU and in international institutions such as the IMF, the World Banks, the WTO and the UN. Our goal is to raise awareness of the negative impacts of globalisation, to develop concrete alternatives and to contribute to their implementation. For doing so WEED analyses and evaluates processes of decision-making in the world economy and proposes alternatives to prevailing politics; provides professional expertise for social movements and other actors of the civil society; takes part in public campaigns and mobilises civil society interventions proactively, approaches decision makers in politics and economy and demands the realisation of sustainable policies.

WEED cooperates in national and international networks like ATTAC, IFI-Watchers, Seattles to Brussels Network, Social Watch, Erlassjahrkampagne (jubilee Germany) as well as with unions and many more partner organisations as EURODAD."]

[WEED promotes the 'negative' paradigm of sustainable development' described on the main ITSSD website].

In recent years, McCreevy has publicly identified with the chief architects of market fundamentalism. In December 2005, he praised Margaret Thatcher for how she had "economically transformed" Britain as its prime minister in the 1980s. And he quoted Milton Friedman, intellectual guru to the late U.S. president Ronald Reagan, as well as to the Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet, to support his contention that tax competition between nations is healthy.

In December last year, a United Nations conference in the Qatari capital Doha recognised the kind of tax competition McCreevy favours as a major contributor to global poverty. U.S. President Barack Obama has also promised to crack down on tax havens.


According to the World Bank, up to 800 billion dollars in untaxed capital leaves poor countries or economies in transition each year, frequently because multinational firms have received tax breaks from the host countries. This dwarfs the 100 billion dollars that such countries receive in annual development aid.

Accountancy firms have been accused of providing invaluable advice to companies about how they can conceal their profits and thereby evade tax. The four biggest firms with global reach - PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, Ernst & Young and Deloitte - have all paid huge settlements in recent times after they were sued for breaching financial rules. Yet McCreevy, himself an accountant by training, has recommended that the four (joined together in the International Accounting Standards Board) should effectively set the rules that companies listed on the EU's stock exchanges should follow. This has thwarted moves to introduce the kind of international system deemed vital by anti-poverty campaigners to tackle tax evasion: one where every multinational firm has to state what profits it makes and what taxes it pays in every country where it operates.


"Published accounts will always be like bikinis - much more interesting for what they conceal than for what they reveal," McCreevy has said. "The view that more frequent reporting by companies increases transparency is one about which I am deeply sceptical."

John Christensen from the Tax Justice Network differs: "The IASB is a private company. By and large, it is manned by and controlled by the big four accounting firms and their clients. It doesn't generally consult outside the four. McCreevy is very closely connected to the four, he comes out of that background. And he doesn't buy into the idea that there is a legitimate interest in corporate information outside the investor community.

"There is not necessarily any financial conflicts of interests. But I'm afraid McCreevy is seen as representing the interests of the International Financial Services Centre in Dublin. Dublin is competing with other tax havens like the Isle of Man and Jersey. It is pushing lax regulation and McCreevy is seen as part of that problem of lax regulation." (END/2009)