The Government must stand up to the threat of new fuel tax protests and refuse to cut fuel duty if it is serious about tackling climate change, Friends of the Earth said today. The environmental campaign group said that despite recent rises in oil prices, the cost of motoring is still cheaper in real terms than it was in 1997 when Labour came to power, and also cheaper than it was 30 years ago.

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 revealed today that motorists can save hundreds of pounds in fuel costs by choosing more fuel efficient cars;

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.

Friends of the Earth’s Transport campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said “UK emissions of carbon dioxide are rising. Climate change is the biggest threat the planet faces. Unless we take the situation seriously the consequences for us all will be disastrous. Caving in to the fuel protesters and cutting fuel duty will only make the situation worse. The Government must do far more to get people to drive more fuel-efficient vehicles, develop cleaner fuels and boost public transport. The Chancellor’s decisions on fuel tax should be based on tackling climate change and reducing our dependence on oil, not on the threat of protests”.

Transport facts:

  • Traffic levels have risen under Labour, despite a promise by Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, to reduce them. Traffic levels are now over ten per cent higher than when Labour came to power in 1997.
  • Sales of gas-guzzling vehicles, including 4x4s, have increased, while sales of more fuel efficient vehicles have fallen. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, sales of 4x4s rose by 14% in 2004 but sales of ‘superminis’ fell by 3.9%
  • Friends of the Earth is campaigning for a new law obliging the government to make year-on-year reductions in UK carbon dioxide emissions. A strategy to tackle vehicle emissions must be part of this.