Add green taxes to clothes and gadgets to reach net zero, No 10 told

Green taxes clothes fashion net zero shopping - Anouk de Maar/Image Source
Green taxes clothes fashion net zero shopping - Anouk de Maar/Image Source

Green taxes should be added to clothes, gadgets and red meat as part of the Government’s net zero plan, a new report from its former “nudge unit” said.

More than 70 per cent of people backed extending carbon levies to include clothing and electronics in a survey by the Behavioural Insight Team (BIT).

Only 53 per cent supported a carbon tax on red meat and dairy.

The suggestion was one of several in a new report on how to encourage people to go green from the nudge unit, which was set up by the Government in 2016 but sold off to Nesta, an innovation charity, in 2021.

Changing behaviour without ‘nagging’

Toby Park, the report’s lead author, said that the Government would have to intervene to encourage people to make greener choices or risk failing on its pledge to hit net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

He said: “It’s a necessity. This is like the main event because ultimately, it all comes down to how we get to work, how we heat our homes, what we eat, what our relationship is to the stuff that we buy and use and waste and so on. It really cuts across all aspects of our lives.”

However, Mr Park argued that addressing behaviour change did not necessarily mean “nagging”.

“That’s not what we’re saying. We’re saying it’s about building choice environments, policy, business practices, that enable those greener choices to flourish.”

Nearly nine in 10 people said it was often too hard to make greener choices because of the expense, inconvenience, or a lack of knowledge about the options, according to BIT’s representative survey of 1,000 people in the UK.

This was despite the same number saying they would like to make more sustainable choices.

The report from the BIT is intended to be a “blueprint for building and delivering a net zero society” targeted at government policy makers, Mr Park said.

Among the proposals with the highest support were eco labels on items such as food and clothing as well as pensions, airlines and shops, which had the support of 83 per cent of those surveyed.

Nearly 80 per cent also supported linking stamp duty to energy efficiency levels, with the potential for a rebate 18 months after purchase if they are retrofitted.

Cutting VAT on electric cars unpopular

Policy proposals that were least popular included reducing VAT on new electric cars to 10 per cent, to be paid off by increasing the tax on new petrol and diesel models to 25 per cent, which was backed by just 45 per cent of respondents.

The Government has repeatedly pushed back against calls to encourage people to change their behaviour to go green, including eating less meat and cutting down on flying.

Mr Park argued that politicians may not appreciate how willing the public is to make changes.

He said: “The amount of public support for these ideas is actually pretty high. It opens up a bit of political space to see that, actually, the public are a little bit ahead of politicians on these issues.”