Friday, 6 July 2007

Cleaner policy, please

British businesses, it seems, want to clean up their act, but want the government to take the lead. So finds PwC in a new survey, modestly titled Saving the Planet, of UK corporate attitudes to climate change policy.

The good news is that virtually all say it's important for them to reduce the environmental impact of industry, an aim that's only realistically achievable through the deployment of the diverse goods and services which fall under the cleantech banner. Over two thirds say that climate change and other environmental issues are already affecting their business.

Less happily, a small majority say they are not confident in making long-term investment decisions due to uncertainty about the current environmental tax and regulatory framework. Most aren't confident about the effectiveness of government policy, and current tax incentives are seen as unclear, unnecessarily complex, and unlikely to motivate any meaningful change in behaviour. To quote one respondent: "Government needs to find a way of getting companies to do the right thing, but in a way that doesn’t penalise companies."

On the other hand, straight tax schemes such as the landfill tax and climate change levy are actually among the most popular policies. The CCL in particular appears to be a significant driver of investment in renewable energy sources.

The survey also shows significant concern over whether the revenues from environmental taxes are ring-fenced for environmental initiatives, or subsumed into general government spending. Environmental tax revenues, by PwC's measure (which does include fuel duty and other taxes of a less than entirely environmental focus), currently total around £35 billion, or 7.7% of total taxes and social contributions. If even a few percent of these revenues could be directed towards developing and investing in new clean technologies, what would be possible?

No comments: