TransformTax project

Transforming the UK tax system for environmental good
TransformTax project
The current economic system is founded on ever increasing consumption of goods and services, with little consideration of the impact this has on the planet or well-being.

In the UK, the average citizen is responsible for around 12 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year. This is a long way from the net zero lifestyle we need to adopt to meet the Paris climate goals.

Around 45 per cent of these emissions are associated with imported goods and services, and another 35 per cent are from UK-produced goods and services.

The Global Footprint Network estimates the average UK resident has an ecological footprint – including the use of resources – that is three and a half times their share of the natural world’s productive capacity.

Our consumption patterns have to change if we are to address the climate and ecological emergency. At the moment, many feel that they pay a ‘green premium’ to make environmentally beneficial purchasing decisions, with organic food, energy efficient domestic appliances and eco-friendly cleaning materials, for example, consistently more expensive than traditional alternatives. This makes them inaccessible to people on lower incomes and is preventing wider uptake. 

In this project we are examining the opportunities for the tax system, and VAT in particular, to help people make more sustainable choices. By building on our experience with citizen’s juries, we want our proposals to benefit the environment while also taking the concerns of ordinary people into account, which are too often ignored by Westminster.

The first report of our TransformTax project is Added Value, which outlines three changes to VAT that should be made to embed environmental and social benefits in the tax system.

For our second report, The green light for change, we commissioned a BritainThinks survey of over 2,000 people, which revealed strong support among the UK public for changes to the tax system to encourage greener choices.

For our third report, A greener tax system we continued our work with BritainThinks to carry out citizens’ jury to delve deeper into public attitudes around greening tax and discover how to ensure their support.

Confirmed members of the TransformTax advisory board are:
  • Arun Advani, assistant professor in economics and impact director of the Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) at Warwick University.
  • Sam Fankhauser, director at LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
  • Dominic Hogg, chairman of Eunomia Research & Consulting.
  • Hector Pollitt, director and head of modelling at Cambridge Econometrics, the global economics consultancy.
  • Lorraine Whitmarsh, professor of environmental psychology at University of Bath, and director of the Centre for Climate Change & Social Transformation (CAST).
This project has been made possible with the generous support of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

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