by Ann Pettifor 22 April, 2009 The Guardian.
The 50% tax plans are too little, too late – and the carbon budget is not enough to help us avoid catastrotrophic climate change.
At last, timidly and belatedly, New Labour is going after the rich – the top 1% earners in the country – by increasing tax on salaries over £150,000 to 50%. And there is help for the young unemployed, the elderly, the disabled and for childrren.
But as always, it’s too little too late.
Trying to redistribute wealth in the middle of the most severe downturn in Britain’s postwar history – on a day when the number of people claiming unemployment benefits increased for the 13th month, rising 73,700 to 1.46 million – will feel like gesture politics to those 73,700 people.
But given how much taxpayer support has already been funnelled to bankers earning more than £150,000 in the City of London – £1.3tn in support for the banks – and to big business in this budget (£1.64bn – to subsidise 40% in tax relief for businesses on capital spending) – the crumbs offered to the rest of us are just that: crumbs.
And sadly, there is no Green New Deal. The chancellor’s efforts to address the threat of climate change were contradictory. On the one hand the setting of a carbon budget must be welcomed. But the target – 34% cuts in emissions by 2020 – is well below what scientists tell us must be done if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.
It’s as if the government still has not grasped the full scale of the threat – or of the wide range of actions that must be taken. The boost to the North Sea Oil industry is the last thing we need – we have already burnt far more carbon fuel than the earth’s climate can stand – and the car scrappage scheme will simply encourage automakers to build more oil-burning cars. The money would have been far better spent improving public transport.
On the other hand the financial help for offshore wind and other clean technology investment is very welcome.
The £435m help for improving energy efficiency in homes, is welcome too, but may well only apply to new homes. Building new homes means more consumption of scarce resources and land. We need to be retrofitting and improving existing homes, and using the space we already have more efficiently.
So this budget does not promise a Green New Deal – a massive programme of job-creation coupled with investment in green technology.
Instead the government continues to fiddle – while carbon emissions burn out.