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Zac Goldsmith has just emailed me a Q&A that attempts to rebut the "amazingly misleading" press coverage of recent days. He writes: "The report is not about bans, punishments or telling people what to do. It’s about making green decisions possible for everyone – not just the wealthy. It’s about pushing business to be less wasteful and more efficient."

This is his Q&A briefing:

"More Bans?

The report actually puts very little emphasis on Bans. We propose banning landfill of waste that can be composted or recycled. But that’s about it. The emphasis is on raising standards as far as possible, but never more than existing technology allows. There are huge savings to be made through greater appliance efficiency.

Reports that we want to ban Plasma screens are wrong. We want to encourage plasmas that are less wasteful. Nor are we proposing to ban the standby. We want to have an automatic switch-off mechanism fitted so that appliances switch off after a set period of time.

More Regulations?

We don’t want more regulation. We have some of the most difficult regulations in Europe, and some of the lowest standards. We want to replace prescriptive – process-oriented regulations – with outcome-specific standards. So – we would abolish the Building Regulations. In farming – the most regulated of all activities – we would move to a process of self-certification based on trust. On Planning, we would decentralise the process to avoid situations where the Central Government is able to rule on genuinely local issues, against the wishes of local people and Local Authorities.

More Taxes?

The report does not advocate higher taxes. We believe pollution and the
use of scarce resources are a rational base for generating revenue –
far better than taxing families or work. Where we propose taxes, they
are balanced by cuts elsewhere.

Taking the examples most frequently cited:

Car Tax: We want to make it easier for people to buy cleaner cars that
cost much less to run. We therefore advocate the introduction of new
taxes on the dirtiest cars – and reduce taxes (VAT) on the cleanest.
This will be revenue neutral.

Aviation: We are categorically NOT proposing to tax holidays. We are
ONLY targeting domestic, short-haul, commuter flights to destinations
easily reached by train, and within the same sort of time frame. Much
of the proceeds will be used to improve the rail alternatives.


Would it be more expensive to improve/extend your home?

No! We are saying that all home improvements should be VAT free
(currently 17.5%). So the cost will be dramatically less. The reason is
two-fold. 1. We want to encourage better use of existing buildings,
reducing the need for construction of new buildings. 2. We are saying
that because of the VAT relief, we would require homeowners to upgrade
the energy performance of their homes.

It has been reported that we would require people to fit their homes
with efficient appliances if they want to improve their home. This is
plain wrong.


Supermarket Parking charges?

Forcing supermarkets to pay for parking is not an issue for central
government. If Local Authorities decide to charge supermarkets for
parking – they would be required to use the proceeds to lower the cost
of parking on the highstreet to help reverse the closure of independent
shops (2,000 each year). It’s not about emissions. It’s not about
congestion. It’s about balancing the playing field. If Local
Authorities want to do it – we think they should be able to. If it’s an
unpopular decision, then we are proposing generally that local people
should be able have direct influence (possibly through local
referendums) local decisions.


The government should adopt a ‘Happy Planet Index’?

We don’t say anything of the sort. We point out that despite huge
material gains for most people in recent decades, our children are
among the unhappiest in the world. We base this view on the results of
a large number of studies including UNICEF and the so-called Happy
Planet Index. This is a huge issue. Our view is that greater access to
the outdoors, better food, stronger communities is part of the answer."

41 comments for: Zac Goldsmith offers rebuttal of criticisms of his QofL report

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