Sheffield MP calls Treasury out on climate crisis inaction

A Sheffield MP who sits on the public accounts committee said it was “extremely worrying” that the Treasury showed a “lack of coordination or leadership” on tackling the climate crisis.

By Molly Williams, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 30th April 2021, 11:52 am

Olivia Blake MP for Sheffield Hallam, said the public accounts committee she is a member of warned that HM Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs have a limited understanding of the environmental impact of taxes and were unable to explain to them how the system is used in achieving the government’s environmental goals.

She said: “The scale of the climate emergency we face demands urgent, unprecedented levels of action, and steps to reach net-zero should be a priority for every Government department. It is therefore extremely worrying to see such a lack of coordination or leadership from within the Treasury.

“Our report today indicates that time and time again the immediate priorities of the Treasury have outweighed the action needed to support long-term environmental objectives.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Olivia Blake.

“If we are to reach our net-zero goals and make a success of the COP26 summit later this year, the HMRC and HMT must set out a clear, longer-term vision for how it will work to help the UK achieve net zero – including how the tax system, and every tax measure, can help us reduce emissions and curb the worst effects of this crisis.”

The committee said HMRC and Treasury only recognise four environmental taxes and the departments have not kept track of the effects of other tax measures with environmental impacts, such as tax reliefs to support energy saving and clean technologies, or the impact of tax measures affecting consumption of fossil fuels.

The committee said environmental assessments should be made for all taxes.

MP Meg Hillier, chair of the public accounts committee, said: “The economic revolution required to abandon fossil fuels and reach net zero must be the greatest co-ordinated ask, of governments around the globe, in history. But the UK government has been blithely issuing ever more ambitious climate targets for years now, with no sign of a roadmap to reach any of them. The departments in charge seem stuck in a bygone era, with little sign of the innovative thinking needed to achieve all this.

“Every week brings reports of some climate record disturbingly broken – the hottest year, the hottest decade, warming seas rising faster than we feared, carbon emissions raging back even as the economy takes more faltering steps. Now we are six months from hosting the next major global climate summit and the climate storm is breaking all around us. HMRC and HMT need to catch up fast.”

A government spokesperson said: “We’re leading the world in building back better and greener from the pandemic. We were the first major economy to commit to net zero by 2050 and one of the first to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and just last week we announced more ambitious carbon emissions targets. But this is about policies not just targets, which is why the Prime Minister has outlined an ambitious Ten Point Plan to achieve our environmental goals.”