19 February 2000

Climate levy is crushing blow

Energy efficiency is the goal, but how much will it cost?

GLOBAL warming may be a hot topic these days, but theres nothing heart-warming about news of the Governments proposed Climate Change levy. The Treasury is aiming to introduce this tax in April next year.

Worst affected could be heated glasshouse production, but the ramifications of this unfair proposal will hit all sectors of horticulture and agriculture.

The idea of the tax is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions throughout agriculture, so that the UK can meet its requirements under the Kyoto Climate Change agreement. In return, growers are promised reductions in National Insurance contributions.

However, sums done by the NFU show that this tax will cost the industry a massive £11m, even after the reduced NI bill is taken into account. Its thought that 11,000 jobs are at stake in the horticulture sector alone.

Everyone agrees that energy efficiency is the way forward. Growers know full well that wasting energy loses them money, as well as hurting the environment. However, a more constructive approach would be to help horticulture find better systems which are more energy efficient. By imposing a crude tax, all that will happen is that production will move abroad.

Sure enough, France, Spain and Portugal have no plans to introduce a similar levy. Where does that leave the fair playing field? Horticulture and agriculture should be exempt.

To quote Ben Gill: "Its ironic that, while agriculture is carbon dioxide neutral and prides itself on being at the cutting edge of renewable energy technology and energy-saving measures, including energy crops, wind power and combined heat and power supplies, it will be dealt such a devastating blow by the Climate Change levy." We agree.

Once again, the British are preparing themselves as a nation to be led to the slaughter, on the altar of good causes. We need to think more carefully about why we are making such a pointless sacrifice.