Shoppers could be punished with higher prices on meat and cheese at the supermarket and on gas for their hobs and boilers at home as Boris Johnson ponders new carbon taxes and charges for Britain, it emerged today.
The Prime Minister has ordered Whitehall departments to look at how much greenhouse gas emissions produced by different sectors of the economy cost society.
At present, only airlines and power generators are charged for their emissions, but ministers want to extend the ‘polluter pays’ principle to all sectors. This could lead to a hike in prices for goods such as beef, lamb and cheese, or more heavily polluting forms of heating such as gas.
No prices have been mooted by Whitehall, but recent studies by a team at Oxford University have calculated that surcharges of 40 per cent on beef, 25 per cent on oils, 20 per cent on milk, 15 per cent on lamb and 10 per cent on chicken would reduce emissions and reduce consumption in the way the PM wants.
This means that the cost of a sirloin steak, currently around £4.50 in the supermarket, would be around £6.30 and mince would rise £1.46 to £5.02. Olive oil would increase from £3.75 to £4.69.
Four pints of milk would go from £1.09 to £1.32, four lamb chops up to £7.50 from £6, six chicken breasts up 50p per pack to £5.50 while a whole chicken would increase in price by 28p to £3.78; Eggs would rise 5p to 94p and sugar would increase by a penny to 66p.
Britain’s meat industry have long believed farmers are ‘unfairly’ criticised by environmentalists and consumers will also pay the price.
Neil Shand, from the National Beef Association, said: ‘Britain’s meat industry is given a lot of unfair criticism over its environmental impact.’ National Pig Association chairman Richard Lister added: ‘There has been a heavy bias against meat when it comes to climate change discussions.’
MailOnline has calculated the potential cost at the tills if the Government imposed a tax on meat, oil, dairy, eggs and sugar
A study by the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food calculated tax levels for every day items that would reduce carbon and consumption. Academics believe 40 per cent on beef would be required, 25 per cent on oats and 20 per cent on lamb
Boris Johnson wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions, despite warnings that it will be a ‘colossal challenge’, with a tax on food and gas being mooted
How a tax on staples such as meat, milk and cheese could look at the supermarket till
Single Sirloin steak (450g)
Cost now: £4.50
After tax: £6.30
Four pints of semi-skimmed milk
Cost now: £1.09
After tax: £1.32
Four lamb chops (300g)
Cost now: £6
After tax: £7.50
Six chicken breasts (950G)
Cost now: £5
After tax: £5.50
Quaker Porridge Oats (1Kg)
Cost now: £1.75
After tax: £2.17
The Oxford research also said taxes on rice, wheat, pork, maize, eggs, vegetables and sugar should be between three and 10 per cent would cover damage their production causes to the environment.
In Canada they have recently introduced a carbon tax rising at $10 per ton of CO2 per year, reaching $50 per ton in 2022. Consumers say that it now accounts for around 16 per cent of an monthly bill. This would add around £6 to the UK average monthly gas bill of £50.
Mr Johnson, who will host the United Nations’ climate change conference in Glasgow in November, is reportedly looking at the proposals as he attempts to deliver on the Government’s net zero carbon pledge by 2050.
A Whitehall memo leaked to The Times apparently shows Downing Street and the Treasury have asked all departments for plans for a carbon-pricing scheme across all areas of the economy.
‘The Chancellor and the Prime Minister want a sector-by-sector view on how we could implement some form of carbon pricing and an overall roadmap to deliver [it] in the next decade,’ it stated. The document suggested these could include a direct ‘carbon tax’.
The Government-owned Behavioural Insights Team, also known as the ‘nudge unit’, has previously suggested a carbon tax on high-impact food.
Last year Boris Johnson has announced a more ambitious plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions, despite warnings that it will be a ‘colossal challenge’.
The Prime Minister wants the UK to lead the charge ahead of hosting next year’s climate talks.
He hopes Britain will cut emissions faster than any other major economy and has beefed up a previous target.
Instead of reducing emissions by 61 per cent on 1990 levels by 2030, Mr Johnson wants them cut by at least 68 per cent.
He aims to put environmental issues at the heart of Britain’s economy after the Brexit ‘transition’ phase ends this month.
It will also allow the PM to find common ground with US president Joe Biden, who has promised to take a leading role on climate issues.
Instead of reducing emissions by 61 per cent on 1990 levels by 2030, Mr Johnson wants them cut by at least 68 per cent (stock image)
Banning has boilers, fuel cars and new airports: How the Government is expected to cut CO2 (costing up to £10,000 per home)
Aviation emissions accounted for 7% of UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 – an increase of 88% from 1990 levels.
Experts say that with pre-pandemic passenger levels not expected to return until 2024, the pandemic has presented an opportunity to examine ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the future.
A frequent flyer tax is also discussed in the route map to reduce carbon emissions, which calls for flights from the UK to be cut by 15 per cent from 2018 levels in its ‘highly optimistic’ scenario for lowering emissions.
Cutting back on car use
Car-sharing, working from home, increased use of e-bikes and walking are among the suggestions to cut the amount of miles people are expected to drive in 2050 by a third.
The increased use of internet shopping has also contributed to cutting carbon emissions, the report says, so this ‘continuing trend’ could also help reduce road emissions.
Reducing the speed limit could also help reduce carbon emissions, a recent report states.
Banning the sale of gas boilers
The government’s Climate Change Committee calling for a ban on new oil-fired boilers by 2028, and gas-fired boilers by 2033.
The MPs also called for newly fitted boilers to be ‘hydrogen-ready’ from 2025 onwards, which could make them around £100 more expensive.
Hydrogen and heat pumps have both been touted as a low carbon emission alternative.
But there issues with these heat sources have been highlighted by Dr Matt Lipson, the business lead at Energy Systems Catapult’s Consumer Insight.
He told BBC Radio 4: ‘The downside is there’s no (hydrogen) supplier at the moment, so if you want to do it this winter you might struggle.’
Eat less meat
The government’s Climate Change Committee says cutting the number of livestock would help to reduce greenhouse gases that are linked to global warming.
According to its analysis, agricultural emissions represented 10% of UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 compared to 7% in 1990.
It suggests families should move away from meat and dairy, helping to reduce livestock numbers, by choosing ‘plant-based options’ – and one day even meat grown in a laboratory.
Last month’s report feeds in to the government’s five-yearly ‘carbon budgets’ which aim to help the UK meet the long term legally-binding goal to bring climate pollution down to zero overall or ‘net zero’ by 2050.
The report says currently 7% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the UK’s fossil fuel supply.
So measures to meet the climate goals include making the electricity system zero carbon by 2035, with offshore wind playing a major role.
It also discusses producing hydrogen to replace gas, although the UK currently has no supplier for this type of energy.
In order to reduce our emissions, the report suggests tree planting should almost quadruple to 50,000 hectares a year.
Their suggested woodland targets are an increase from 13% of UK land today to 15% by 2035 and a further 18% by 2050.
This will remove CO2 from the air and deliver wider environmental benefits such as increasing wildlife, the report says.
The new target is significantly higher than that of the EU, which has a goal of hitting 40 per cent of 1990 levels by 2030, although it is expected to increase its target.
In November Mr Johnson unveiled a green plan to phase out petrol and diesel cars, increase ‘low-carbon’ central heating, boost offshore wind power and extend hydrogen technology.
Reports suggested that he wants to replace gas boilers with more efficient and environmentally friendly heat pumps and biomass boilers.
Setting out the new target, Mr Johnson said: ‘We have proven we can reduce our emissions and create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process – uniting businesses, academics, non-governmental organisations and local communities in a common goal to go further and faster to tackle climate change.
‘Today, we are taking the lead with an ambitious new target to reduce our emissions by 2030, faster than any major economy, with our ten point plan helping us on our path to reach it.
‘But this is a global effort, which is why the UK is urging world leaders as part of next week’s [United Nations] Climate Ambition Summit to bring forward their own ambitious plans to cut emissions and set net zero targets.’
The UK will host the UN Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow in November and will seek to capitalise on new freedoms after leaving the EU.
A dramatic report from the government’s Climate Change Committee in Decemb er has also laid out a swathe of measures to slash emissions over the next 15 years.
It urged moves including halting sales of gas boilers by 2033, banning new fossil-fuelled cars – including hybrids – by 2032, and encouraging people to cut the amount of meat and dairy they eat by a fifth in the next decade.
The plan is part of a push for UK to meet a target of getting emissions down 78 per cent by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.
It represents a major increase in ambition in UK climate efforts, with the new 2035 target almost as tough as the previous long term goal of 80 per cent cuts by 2050, which was in place before the net zero law was passed in June 2019.
However, the report from the advisory body suggests that energy efficiency measures could cost £10,000 per home.
That is said to be the average investment needed for measures such as improving insulation and installing low carbon heating.
The Climate Change Committee says the treasury must find £3billion-4billion per year to support low income households make the transition if they are to meet their targets.
Chris Stark, the CCC chief executive, said: ‘I think a large proportion of this should be met by households, especially those who are able to afford it, but there’ll be some households that we should be protecting from those costs.’
The report feeds in to the government’s five-yearly ‘carbon budgets’ which aim to help the UK meet the long term legally-binding goal to bring climate pollution down to zero overall or ‘net zero’ by 2050.
But MPs insisted the report was pushing ‘a certain agenda’ and predicted that the most ‘extreme’ elements would never come into effect.
The Government’s announcement comes in the wake of UN reports saying that 2020 was on track to be one of the three hottest years on record, driving weather extremes, rising sea levels and wildfires.
Britain has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent since 1990, meaning that the rate of ‘decarbonisation’ will have to increase by half over the next decade to meet the new target.
The National Audit Office has warned that meeting the UK’s legal target to cut emissions to net zero by 2050 to curb climate change is a ‘colossal challenge’.
The spending watchdog said this was significantly more difficult than previous targets, which the UK is not on track to meet.
Under the Paris climate change agreement, countries have committed to keep global warming ‘well below’ 2C above pre-industrial levels.
They have vowed to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C, which is seen as the threshold beyond which the worst impacts of climate change will be felt.
To meet this target, the world’s carbon emissions must fall to net zero by 2050.
This can only be achieved with major cuts in pollution and any remaining emissions offset by planting trees or using technology to ‘capture carbon’.
Britain has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent since 1990. Pictured: Solar panels at Kencot solar farm in Lechlade