Rather than calling for increased oil production, Gordon Brown should be doing more to boost energy efficiency and reduce demand for oil to fight climate change, Friends of the Earth said today. Commenting on the Chancellor's speech to the Trades Union Congress, the environmental campaign group said more must be done to switch the economy away from oil.

The Chancellor, who said we must not return to economic short termism, should also promote a long term view on energy issues. While he mentioned briefly the need to tackle climate change, his strategy calling for cheap oil flies in the face of efforts to bring carbon dioxide emissions under control. Gordon Brown has previously acknowledged the need to link climate change to the economy, but is failing to put his thinking into practice, the environmental campaign group said.

Greenhouse gas emissions have risen under Labour and Friends of the Earth is now calling on the Government to bring in a law to implement year-on-year cuts. The environmental campaign group said the call for funding to support developing countries’ investments in alternative energy supplies was welcome, but cautioned that the details were unclear.

Friends of the Earth Head of Campaigns Mike Childs said: “The current high oil prices provide us with the ideal incentive to reduce our oil demand. This should be the top priority for the Chancellor and not just an after-thought. Saving energy will benefit consumers, the economy and our environment. The need to tackle climate change is urgent – and carbon dioxide emissions from transport are increasing. The Government must do more to promote fuel efficient cars and ensure that transport emissions start coming down. Road transport is currently responsible for around 22 per cent of UK carbon dioxide emissions, and that level is expected to rise. Friends of the Earth is calling on the Government to:

  • Do more to encourage people to buy greener cars by increasing road tax (Vehicle Excise Duty) on gas-guzzlers and cutting it for greener cars. Friends of the Earth has shown that motorists can save hundreds of pounds in fuel costs by choosing more fuel efficient;
  • Do more to encourage people to use their cars less and use alternatives instead. The real cost of rail and bus travel has risen in the past 30 years. This trend has continued under Labour.
  • Investigate introducing council tax relief for poorer people living in rural areas who are dependant on cars.
  • Encourage the development and use of bio-fuels. Fuel companies should be forced to ensure that at least 5.75 per cent of their fuel comes from bio-fuels by 2010.