Ministers were accused of saddling consumers with pointless green taxes last night – as new figures revealed surging imports from developing countries that rely on ‘dirty’ power. The revelation will fuel criticism that imposing huge costs on British industry to ‘go green’ has simply shifted emissions – and jobs – overseas.
Successive governments have boasted that a cocktail of green taxes and expensive wind farms has helped to curb carbon dioxide emissions blamed for global warming.
But new official figures reveal that Britain’s so-called ‘carbon footprint’ has increased by 20 per cent in the last two decades as we import ever more from developing countries like China that rely on dirty coal-fired power stations.
The revelation will fuel criticism that imposing huge costs on British industry to ‘go green’ has simply shifted emissions – and jobs – overseas.
The figures will also pile pressure on George Osborne to use this week’s Budget to roll back the costly green measures imposed on consumers and industry in recent years.
Tory MP Dominic Raab said the figures raised serious questions about the value of punitive taxes aimed at curbing carbon emissions in this country.
Mr Raab said: ‘The toxic mix of green tariffs and subsidies inherited from Labour is punishing the squeezed middle by hiking electricity bills, but doing little to combat global carbon emissions.
‘We are consuming more carbon than ever, while countries like China and India are laughing at the economic price British consumers are paying. We need an environmental policy that makes wider economic sense.’
A new study by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) reveals that carbon dioxide emissions relating to imported goods have doubled in the last 20 years as Britain’s manufacturing industry has declined.
Imports now account for almost half of the UK’s total carbon footprint. The surge in imports is so great that Britain’s overall carbon footprint has increased by 20 per cent.
A large proportion of the imports come from developing countries, particularly China, which have refused to sign up to binding targets to cut carbon emissions.
The figures will provide ammunition to the Chancellor who has vowed to tone down the Government’s obsession with the green agenda.
Mr Osborne sparked a furious backlash from green groups and the Liberal Democrats last year when he pledged that in future Britain would cut carbon emissions ‘no slower, but also no faster’ than other European countries.
In a speech to the Conservative Party conference he said: ‘We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business.’
Green policies have become increasingly controversial in recent years. Electricity prices are already 15 per cent higher than they would be as a result of the push to use costly new renewable sources, such as wind farms.
The Government’s own figures suggest green measures will have pushed up electricity costs by 27 per cent by 2020.
Matthew Sinclair, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said the figures underlined the folly of imposing unilateral national measures to tackle a global issue.
Mr Sinclair said: ‘The rise in the emissions produced supplying the British market shows why politicians proud of the draconian regulations and expensive taxes they have put in place, thinking that they have led to a fall in our emissions, are fooling themselves.
‘Not only is the tiny share of global emissions produced in Britain – less than two per cent of the total – almost irrelevant to overall global emissions, but as our targets are all framed in terms of emissions produced here, they can be satisfied without cutting total emissions at all if industry is simply relocated to other countries.’
A Defra study suggests that Britain’s carbon footprint surged by 35 per cent between 1995 and 2005, mostly because of the increase in imports. It fell back by nine per cent between 2008 and 2009 as the recession forced consumers to cut back spending and brought the construction industry to a halt.