The Corner

Environmentalism as Luxury Good

Alice Thomson, writing in the London Times:

Espousing the green life… is increasingly being seen as a luxury by everyone.

Only a year ago, according to MORI, 15 per cent of those polled put the environment in their top three concerns. That figure has dropped by a third to 10 per cent this month. Now that people are fighting for their own survival rather than their grandchildren’s, they put crime, the economy and rising prices at the top of their list.

According to Andrew Cooper, director of the research company, Populus: “There is a direct correlation between how people perceive the economy and the importance they place on the environment. When times are tough people resent paying more to salve their conscience.”

…When David Cameron became leader of the Conservative Party he said that green issues were at the top of his agenda. His slogan for the local elections last year was “Vote Blue, Go Green”. But in the past few months he has realised that voters have lost the appetite for their greens.

He has only given one environmental speech since Christmas. Once he used to talk about putting a £3,000 windmill on top of his house. Now the message is not about conserving the planet but preserving his bank balance. He wears catalogue clothes, grows his own vegetables and holidays barefoot in Britain because it is less extravagant, not because he is trying to reduce his global footprint.

In fact, when the Tory leader’s bicycle was stolen a week ago, the message of the story was not how green he was for riding his bike, but how broken our society has become when a politician finds his bike nicked from under his nose.

Boris Johnson was the first to realise that the tolerance for green taxes may have peaked. When he became Mayor of London, he dropped plans to charge a £25 congestion fee on gas-guzzling cars.

The Tories have quietly been reviewing many of their green policies. A range of measures designed to penalise motoring and other polluting activities has been put on hold in case they alienate families struggling to pay their bills. A proposal to tax the highest emitting cars up to £500 more than the greenest vehicles has been quietly shelved, as has the plan to raise taxes on short-haul flights. Instead George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, has promised to cut tax on fuel when oil prices rise.

Food for thought, Senator McCain.

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