It’s that time of year again, time for the world to pay attention to climate change policy for a few weeks. Most of the year, schemes like the EU Emissions Trading System and the Renewables Obligation just wallow in dysfunction and quietly cost us a fortune, adding to our electricity bills in particular. Manufacturers pay attention, and higher energy costs threaten to drive industrial jobs abroad, and the poor and elderly feel the effects, even if they don’t know why their bills are rising. But the only people who really have the staff and the organisational clout to pursue this issue all year round are the environmental campaigns.
Many of them, like Friends of the Earth, have multi-million pound budgets and dozens of staff. They have had huge success in advocating very expensive policies here, even if other countries aren’t playing ball at the conferences.
To a certain extent, that’s fair enough. Only 1 percent of the public think the environment is the most important issue facing Britain today, and only 6 percent think it is an important issue according to the Ipsos-Mori Issues Index. Enough people are willing to donate their time and money to make organisations like the WWF and Greenpeace a significant part of Britain’s political debate, though.
What isn’t fair or democratic, is when their private support is topped up with taxpayers’ money. Our new report shows that many environmental campaigns are receiving hundreds of thousands of pounds in support from British public sector bodies and the EU. From the big campaigns like Friends of the Earth and the WWF, who received over £1 million, to the smaller ones like the Brighton Peace and Environment Centre who got more than £40,000 from DFID and the National Lottery and the New Economics Foundation who got over £100,000.
Taxpayer funded environmentalism needs to end. It can’t be right that taxpayers have to pay once to fund environmental campaigns, then again when the regulations they campaign for drive-up their cost of living.
Matthew Sinclair is Director of the Taxpayers' Alliance