Written evidence submitted by Sustrans|
Sustrans makes smarter travel choices possible, desirable
and inevitable. We're a leading UK charity enabling people to
travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys
we make every day. We work with families, communities, policy-makers
and partner organisations so that people are able to choose healthier,
cleaner and cheaper journeys, with better places and spaces to
move through and live in.
plays a key role in all our lives. It has transformed our outlook
and has had a massive impact on our quality of life yet but the
transport sector in the UK is responsible for a significant proportion
of emissions. Transport policy therefore has a strategic role
to play in the challenge to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate
Prime Minister's aspirations for the coalition to be the "greenest
government ever" have been well documented though actual
green credentials less able to identify. The Chancellor's 2011
highlighted a weak commitment to "green" issues and
appeared to be heavily influenced by the "end of the war
on the motorist".
taxes offer the potential for behavioural change and modal shift
and consequently may offer an important part of wider government
strategy towards reducing the onset and impact of climate change,
but research shows that such taxes require transparency and must
be designed to improve rather than worsen inequality.
taxes should be used to reward, rather than punish behaviour.
from fuel duty should be ring-fenced and invested increasing people's
travel choices and make it easier for people to walk, cycle and
use public transport.
support from national government, local government or business
may be required to create an environment that enables people to
taxes must be positively communicated so as to ensure that the
public understand the rewards that the taxation gives and are
encouraged to change their behaviour.
1.1 Sustrans is the charity that's enabling people
to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys
we make every day. Our work makes it possible for people to choose
healthier, cleaner and cheaper journeys, with better places and
spaces to move through and live in.
1.2 Sustrans was founded in 1977 partly in response
to emerging evidence at the time about the threat of "global
warming", as it was popularly termed then. We believe that
now more than ever before, we have an urgent collective responsibility
to reduce our contribution to climate change by changing the way
we travel. Sustrans is committed to creating an environment in
which people can make low and zero carbon transport decisions
1.3 We welcome the opportunity to respond to
this Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into the 2011 Budget
and environmental taxes. As the expected impact of the March 2011
budget begins to unfold it is vital that select committees ensure
the government is able to maintain its commitments across all
Sustrans and Climate Change
1.4 The latest scientific information from the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changethe largest body
of expert climate scientists from around the worldshows
that climate change is the biggest challenge facing us all today.
Sustrans supports swift and decisive action to reduce greenhouse
gas emissions, to prevent catastrophic climate change. The urgency
of our work, to put in place low and zero carbon transport solutions,
is informed by the ever-increasing scientific literature on climate
change, and the moral imperative of adopting a precautionary approach,
considering the global impacts of catastrophic climate change.
1.5 The rate of change in predictions as to what
degree of greenhouse gas emission reductions we need, and by when,
is alarming, and only serves to increase the urgency for change.
The need to transform travel behaviour towards low and zero carbon
solutions is only made more urgent by the data surrounding peak
oilby some predictions, we have already passed the point
where conventional oil production has peaked; by other predictions,
we will pass this point before or by 2015. As oil becomes ever
more expensive as supply declines compared to demand, this has
the potential to increase pressures on more climate polluting
sources of fossil fuels, such as coal, or marginal oil production
methods such as tar sands. The sooner we reduce our oil dependency
for transport, the faster we can reduce our contribution to catastrophic
1.6 Sustrans believes that the UK Government
should be aiming for a policy target of zero greenhouse gas emissions
by 2050, or sooner if possible, across all sectors (not just transport).
The target of zero greenhouse gas emissions is also set by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who argue that
we should be aiming globally for zero emissions by 2060.
1.7 Sustrans believes that
different sectors should all be working towards carbon reduction
targetsno one sector should be allowed to mitigate the
effects of another. So for instance, Sustrans does not support
investment in walking and cycling if it is done to offset the
pressures caused by an escalating demand for air travel, and its
associated increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Every sector
must play its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Strategy
and planning for different sectors then needs to start with these
carbon reduction targets, and budgets for implementation need
to clearly deliver results towards these sectoral targets.
Sustrans and Peak Oil
our way of life, particularly how we transport ourselves, is currently
hugely dependent on cheap, readily available oil supplies. Sustrans
promotes sustainable transport solutions which can help to dramatically
decrease our reliance on oil. Sustrans is keen to ensure that
the solutions we promote, and demonstrate through a wide range
of projects changing travel behaviour to increase walking and
cycling wherever possibleare developed fast enough, and
on a big enough scale, to provide solutions to the problems presented
by loss of access to cheap oil and rising fuel prices.
1.9 Sustrans believes that one of the ways we
can adapt to living in an oil-scarce world is by choosing to walk
and cycle wherever feasible. Ultimately, this will require us
to reduce the need to travel long distances, and also to reduce
the need to travel at high speeds. These two changestravelling
less far, and less fastwill require major changes in many
aspects of our lives. There are a number of other ways people
can prepare and adapt for an oil scarce futureSustrans'
focus is on the changes we can all make in our personal travel
1.10 One of the most effective means the Government
has of constraining emissions from road transport is to reduce
reliance on car use through planning regulations which can shape
the areas in which people live. The Department for Transport (DfT)
and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)
must work more closely together to ensure that new developments,
especially in the housing growth areas, are designed to minimise
car use. Planning policy, in particular, should include specific
measures for reducing road journeys.
1.11 Progress to date indicates both that reducing
carbon emissions from transport is particularly challenging, and
that the DfT needs urgently to accelerate its efforts: transport
is the only sector of the UK economy in which carbon emissions
were higher in 2004 than the baseline year of 1990, and the only
sector in which emissions are projected to be higher in 2020 than
1.12 The fuel duty escalator, put in place under
the previous Conservative government,
has played an important role in helping to reduce the increase
in CO2 emissions from road transport. Given the transport sector
continues to present seemingly intractable problems of emissions
growth, the Government and sensitivity around the issue of fuel
pricing, particularly at a time of high oil prices, there can
be few more urgent issues on which those who have argued for an
all party consensus on climate change policy should now focus
2. BUDGET 2011
2.1 The chancellor's 2011 budget
could have used the recession as a reason to build a greener,
cleaner and more sustainable economy, creating jobs and tackling
climate change. In practice, the budget failed to exemplify the
well-documented green aspirations of the coalition government,
instead providing an incentive to use more oil, just as we might
be heading towards an oil crisis.
The fuel duty escalator has been abolished, fuel tax for vehicles
has been cut, air passenger duty rates have been frozen and a
tax on planes that would have discouraged airlines from running
them half-empty has been dismissed. These measures send the clearest
possible signal that intentions to reduce oil dependency have
2.2 A particularly concerning element of the
budget was the abolition of a social contract dating back to 1947,,
which ensured that developers, through the planning laws, were
accountable to the people. Notwithstanding the unorthodox location
of the detail referred to as sustainable development, the change
undermines the commitment to local control emphasized regularly
in coalition policy doctrine. In effect, the change presents yet
another barrier to communities trying to prevent large corporation
domination of local areas.
2.3 The Green Investment Bank will now start
borrowing to the start of financial year 2015-16. In effect this
means that the Chancellor will not, unless he remains chancellor
beyond that point, take responsibility for a measure that will
contribute to the national debt, but prefers to pass it on to
2.4 The budget was disappointingly regressive
and has the potential to undermine not only progress on "green"
agendas but also the government's own tendency towards devolved
control. It demonstrates that the government promises to protect
the environment were not thoroughly integrated across government
2.5 Environmental taxation has been regularly
misrepresented in Britain. Government has failed to combine environmental
or green taxes with direct and ring-fenced funding to support
the preferred behaviours which the taxes are designed to encourage.
Environmental taxation, at its most effective, should not generate
any revenue and should therefore not be used to replace alternative
modes of taxation such as income tax.
2.6 Before the 2010 elections, the Liberal Democrats
indicated an inadequate understanding of environmental taxation.
Their "green tax switch"
announced last September promised to "cut income tax and
switch to green taxes on pollution instead". As the UK relies
on income tax to fund schools, hospitals and public services,
replacing this funding with eco-tax revenue either implies a desire
to continue polluting so as to keep the revenue coming in, or
indicates a reduction in spending for schools, hospitals, public
services and so on.
Environmental Taxes: Transport
2.7 Britain should be a particularly responsive
environment in which to apply environmental taxation as a means
to achieve significant modal shift. Of course there are some journeys
which need to be made by car and which will continue to require
private motorised transport, at least in the foreseeable future.
But 23% of car journeys are less than two miles long and 56% less
than five miles
and government should be focusing on making it possible for the
majority of those journeys to be made by other modes such as walking,
cycling and public transport.
2.8 There are a whole host of journeys we make
for example to the out of town supermarket or to the post office
in the next town which could be removed from oil dependency if
we looked more holistically at policy decisions.
Land use planning,
investment from health, and a more coherent understanding of school
travel are all policy areas which could significantly reduce the
number of journeys we currently need to make by car.
2.9 In the UK, the adoption of fuel tax as a
transport demand measure formally took place in 1992 when the
Conservative government replaced the UK's 10% Car Purchase Tax
with the Fuel Duty Escalator.
2.10 The principle of the Fuel Duty Escalator
was that Road Fuel Duty would be increased annually at above the
rate of inflation, initially by 5% per annum and, from 1997, 6%
per annum. This was coupled, for example, with the 1996 policy
for regulated rail fares to rise at 1% below the rate of
inflation, thus over time increasing the real cost of travel by
car and reducing that of rail. Other European countries have also
adopted a policy to raise the overall price of road fuels, in
some cases with an increase in public transport subsidies to reduce
fares and/or considerable investment in public transport capacity.
The Netherlands is a prime example of this. Fuel duty has thus
emerged as a policy instrument to promote modal shift.
2.11 The effectiveness of the imposition of fuel
duty as a general pricing mechanism will depend on the context
in which it is applied. As noted above, some counties have combined
a policy to increase fuel duties with subsidies to reduce public
transport fares (or the rate of fare rises). So, the impact of
fuel duties will be dependent on the overall pricing context.
Fuel Duties would be expected to have a stronger impact if there
were complementary policies to reduce public transport fares (and
also increase public transport availability) and a political and
financial commitment towards increasing levels of walking and
2.12 In the UK, the general context has been
one where, compared to other European countries, both fuel duties
and public transport fares are high and investment in walking
and cycling has not seen significant and focused commitment. Even
the 1996 policy to limit the increase in (already high) regulated
rail fares was reversed in 2002 to increase fares at 1% above
inflation (coupled with a funding decision to also raise London
bus and Underground fares above inflation in order to help finance
service improvements). So the UK context is one where the modal
shift impact of high fuel duties has been subdued.
2.13 Furthermore, governments have been inconsistent
in the way that motoring taxes have been justified. Fuel duty
has been presented, at different times, as a tool to reduce carbon
emissions, a source of general revenue, and a means to fund transport
investment. This approach has undermined the potential which environmental
taxation has to reduce the negative impact which the current transport
system has on the environment.
2.14 In their 2009 report "Taxes and Charges
on Road Users", the Transport Select Committee stated that:
Taxation policy can have a significant effect
on the impact of transport on the environment. Transport contributes
about 23% of UK domestic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and road
transport is responsible for 93% of this. The Climate Change Act
2008 commits the Government to reducing emissions CO2 by 80% by
2050 and transport will have to contribute to this reduction.
The Department for Transport's objectives include commitments
to reduce congestion, CO2 emissions and pollutants, as well as
road casualties. Fuel duty, Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) and other
taxes and charges can, to varying extents, be used to help achieve
2.15 Fuel duty is, in most respects, the better
way to raise revenue, to encourage fuel efficiency and reduce
CO2 emissions. Those who consume the most and pollute the most,
pay the most. Unfortunately the public are distrustful of government
on this issue and will need to see an improvement in the consistency
and transparency with which environmental taxes are handled.
20 April 2011
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