United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Conservatives pledge to axe climate levy

The opposition Conservative party has pledged to axe the government's new business energy tax if it wins the next election. Shadow Chancellor Michael Portillo claims the Climate Change Levy (CCL), which comes into effect in April, will make British industry less competitive and could cost 156,000 jobs. He says the environment will suffer as business is lost to countries whose environmental standards are lower. Instead of the levy, Portillo favours more gas-fired electricity, US-style emissions trading and voluntary agreements. The Tories' plans to scrap the CCL are key to their new business policy aimed at wooing industry in the lead up to the next election. But the policy received only a lukewarm response from business leaders. John Cridland from the Confederation of British Industry calls it merely "a useful contribution to the debate that pinpoints many of our current concerns." He says the Confederation of British Industry, which has been one of the levy's sternest critics, is no longer opposed to it. The government has made concessions to industry -- such as an 80% reduction in the levy for large electricity users in exchange for agreed targets for energy efficiency. Friends of the Earth (FoE) calls the plans "a dangerous and ill-informed U-turn on the environment." FoE's Mark Johnston says: "Scrapping the levy would blow a huge hole in the UK's program to cut emissions."

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