Environment Secretary David Miliband has drawn up a wide-ranging package of green taxes designed to change people’s behaviour in a bid to offset global warming.
His proposals, in a leaked letter to Gordon Brown, include increases on fuel and air passenger duty as well as increased road tax for the most polluting vehicles.
The leak comes ahead of a report, commissioned by the Chancellor, which will warn of the enormous cost of climate change unless action is taken immediately. In his letter, Mr Miliband also demands moves to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
His suggestions include:
a mechanism to take away from motorists the money they save on fuel when oil prices go down
the need to explore a "substantial increase" in road tax for higher-emission vehicles to encourage people to take cars which pollute less
air travel is currently "lightly taxed" and raising air passenger duty by #5 would raise #400 million a year
the need to address the "market failure" which has meant lightbulb prices do not reflect their true environmental cost, meaning people tend not to buy the most efficient bulbs.
Mr Miliband refused to comment yesterday on the leaked letter, but said the Government would set out its views in the forthcoming pre-Budget report. He also confirmed that Sir Nicholas Stern’s climate change report due out today will warn that climate change poses a huge threat to the UK economy as well as environment.
Interviewed on Sky TV, he said: "I think that the scientific debate has now closed on global warming.
"The science tells us that we have got ten to 15 years to radically change the way in which we produce energy and fuel."
He added: "I think it is very significant that the economics revealed by Sir Nicholas Stern’s report should be that the longer we wait, and certainly the longer we wait beyond the ten to 15-year time frame that is set by the scientists, the more costly it will be."
Mr Miliband insisted green taxes were not just punitive, but offered incentives and rewards as well.
Asked about plans for a raft of new green taxes, he confirmed only that discussions were "going on inside Government".
He added: "They will go through the rightful budgetary process – the pre-Budget Report which is precisely designed to stimulate debate."
"That pre-Budget Report wall set out the Government’s views, some of the options. It will then be for the Budget next year."
Mr Miliband continued: "For 150 years we have pumped carbon into the atmosphere as if it had no price.
"But in fact it has an environmental price and as we are learning from Sir Nicholas Stern, it has an economic price as well. And for the future we have to recognise that environmental and economic price of carbon emissions in the way we live and work."
He said the Government had already introduced a range of green taxes, but these had been offset in various ways to ensure the tax burden remained fair
And he claimed the Conservative approach "didn’t add up", telling Sunday Live: "We have shown over the last nine years that we can make things add up, make them add up for the economy and make them add up for the environment."
Shadow Environment Secretary Peter Ainsworth accused the Government of bringing in more "stealth taxes".
"Tackling the enormous challenge of climate change would have been much easier if the Blair government hadn’t left it so late."
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell warned that tackling climate change was imperative and demanded "hard choices".