18 November 2006

It is not just tackling climate change that matters but HOW you tackle it.

I'm sure some Tories want to do 'something' about climate change - even the rich cannot ignore potential armageddon.

But a party that supports the fuel protestors and the car lobby, has more than it's fair share of climate change deniers in its ranks and was voted the 'most environmentally unfriendly party in the EU' by Friends of the Earth, is even less likely to offend big business on this issue than the Labour party is.

Also of course, you can bet that the WAY the Tories tackle it, will take less notice of the poorest voters who mostly vote Labour.

Unfortunately, green taxes are regressive taxes that hit the poorest the most. Unless the poor are compensated through the tax system in some other equally progressive way they are going to lose out.

The Lib Dems have set out their stall on this, supporting green taxes and pretending that cuts in income tax will redress the balance. Income tax is one of the most progressive taxes, so any cut here helps the rich even more, as those on fixed incomes (pensioners and those without work) gain nothing and the less you earn the less you get. The result of the Lib Dems policies will be to make the poorest pay the most for climate change. No wonder the Tories have signalled some support for these policies.

The equitable and fair answer to climate change is carbon rationing (and I deliberately use THAT word). David Milliband likes to call it carbon 'sharing' - which sounds nicer but is essentially the same thing.

The funny thing about rationing during the Second World War was that the poorest benefited the most, society became much more equitable and people were (ironically in a time of war) at their most healthiest and happiest for generations. It was the backs to the wall, 'we are all in this together' spirit that brought us through. The rich knew they couldn't afford the inefficiencies of social inequities and bloody minded squabbling over resources in a time of such immediate and threatening a crisis as the war against the Nazis. It is that spirit we need to engender in the crisis we are facing over climate change.

Of course there are other reasons for improving the environment other than climate change. Generally improving the environment benefits the poorest the most, as they cannot afford to insulate themselves from some of the effects of a poor environment(by living away from pollution and dangerous main roads and affording to drive everywhere in nice reliable cars when public transport is unreliable.) But saying that, even the rich will benefit from cuts in pollution, less dangerous roads, better public transport and more cycle paths.

The Labour party is the 'party of the poor' and we should make improving the environment our top priority. In a time of relative prosperity in this country in terms of wealth, people know that the things that really improve their quality of life cannot be bought from Dixons. It is a better environment and more resources into health and education. Only government can provide these things and it makes me laugh when people complain about public services and then are willing to sleepwalk into a Tory government that will cut £21 billion from them. How will that help?

We are a low tax country and anyone on or below the median average wage of 23k (and even those below the mean average of 30k) gets fantastic value out of the NHS and other public services. Services they would never be able to afford privately with its wasteful advertising and individual premium levels (witness the US who spend twice per capita what we do on health and yet are ranked 37th on WHO's rankings to our 18th). If we want better public services we need to pay for them. Only a Labour government can help achieve a reduction in carbon that will impact on the poor the least and only a Labour government wants to spend more money on public services that really improve our quality of life.

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