Azara Blog: Gordon Brown ruminates on climate change and fuel tax

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Date published: 2006/04/22

The BBC says:

The developed world has a moral duty to tackle climate change, Chancellor Gordon Brown has said.

But he has resisted calls for higher fuel taxes, saying that high oil prices are enough of a burden for motorists.

The comments come as world oil prices reached record levels and UK drivers were warned the cost of petrol could reach its previous high, 96.1p a litre.

Speaking after talks in the US, he also warned that rising oil prices may threaten global economic stability.

On Friday in New York the price of a barrel of oil reached a record high of $75 (£42).

Mr Brown said the price increases were partly down to growing demand, particularly in Asia.

This has fuelled speculation that the prices at the pumps could rise and remain high throughout the summer.

Petrol retailers said prices were unlikely to top the £1 mark but predicted an "uncomfortable" period for motorists and road hauliers.

Mr Brown said the climate change issue was an ethical one, in an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"If it is affecting both our habitat and environment and affecting those people who are dependent on that environment the most - and that is poor people in poor countries - then this has got to be looked at, not just as an economic issue but a social issue.

"And you could therefore say that it's got an ethical dimension as well."

He added: "There is personal and social responsibility here.

"We can as individuals make a difference in the way we behave and use the environment.

"But it's got to be matched by the measures that we take as a community as a whole. Voluntarism in itself will not be enough."

However, Mr Brown insisted that putting up taxes on energy was not the answer.

"To freeze fuel duty at a time of rising oil prices is the right decision and it is the right decision I made in the Budget.

"You have got to make a balanced judgement about the needs of the economy and the protection of citizens."

The high fuel prices themselves acted as a catalyst for efficiency, and adding further taxes on top would not be practical, Mr Brown said.

Brown will be remembered for the disaster of PFI and for insisting on complicating the tax and benefit system beyond belief, unless he screws up in an even bigger way as the next prime minister. But at least he is willing to defend not raising fuel duty further, perhaps the only politician mature enough to do so in the present "green" hysteria which seems to be gripping the chattering classes in the media. Car drivers pay a whacking great tax, and indeed this is the only economic activity in the country for which any reasonable kind of carbon tax is paid. But of course the so-called environmentalists hate cars (and planes) so fixate on them, with hardly a peep about how domestic electricity and gas prices should rocket if an appropriate carbon tax were imposed on them, and of course no willingness to even contemplate that train (and bus) commuters should even come close to paying the operational cost of their journeys, never mind the environmental cost.

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