British energy tax plan gets mixed response

Environmental, industry, groups divided over government's climate change levy

UK industries, environmental groups and political parties have given widely differing responses to yesterday's budget announcement of a major new national business energy tax, to be introduced in 2001 (ENDS Daily 9 March). The Confederation of British Industry said it would have preferred a system of tradable permits to the tax, though it welcomed the planned measure's revenue neutrality. The Chemical Industries Association was more forthright, expressing "deep disappointment" at a tax that it said would present a "serious threat" to the UK chemical industry. Meanwhile, British environmental groups have declared themselves well pleased with the government's plan. Greenpeace, for example, "applauded" the announcement,which it said provided "welcome recognition that the protection of the climate requires a long-term signal to industry to change its ways". The UK's largest environmental group, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, described the tax as "a real breakthrough" and said it was the government's "first serious commitment" to meeting its greenhouse gas reduction targets. Political reactions to the tax were equally mixed. The centrist Liberal Democrats strongly welcomed the move, while the main opposition Conservative party attacked it, claiming that it would simply increase taxes on business without achieving any environmental benefit.

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