Climate Change

More drivers switch off to global warming tax arguments

3 February 2010

Higher fuel duty and vehicle tax is undermining driver support for the Government campaigns against global warming, the AA has told the Treasury.

This follows publication of latest official figures in a Department for Transport report* "Public attitudes towards climate change and the impact of transport 2006-9". This shows a 'significant' increase in the gap between what the Government tells drivers is good for the environment and what motorists believe.

The report highlights:

  • The proportion of people saying road transport emissions contributes to climate change has fallen from 72% in 2006 to 65% in 2009 – 'a significant difference', the report says.
  • In just one year, support for limiting car use for the sake of the environment dropped from 64% in 2008 to 58% in 2009, a 'significant fall'.
  • Acceptance of increased fuel duty to reduce car use has fallen from 14% in 2006 to 10% in 2009.
  • Although higher taxes on less environmentally-friendly vehicles was the most popular pricing measure, support for it has fallen from 41% in 2006 to 37% in 2009.
  • Complete scepticism in climate change information has risen from 6% in 2006 to 12% in 2009.

Despite greater resistance to pressure on car use through higher taxes, concern about climate change remains strong at 76% in 2009 compared to 81% in 2006.

However, the level of concern depends on how much people rely on their car – 16% of those who drive every day were very concerned compared to 35% of people who drive less often or never.

Consistently high fuel prices, particularly in recession, are to blame for a more negative attitude to climate change measures aimed at cars, the AA believes.

Even though tax hikes account for only around a quarter of the increase in fuel prices between now and this time last year, drivers tend to blame the Government. An AA/Populus panel poll in June 2008 found that 49% of AA members blamed the Government for record fuel prices, and only 20% each for oil-producing countries and oil companies.

The AA argues that influencing car use would be better achieved in a period of high pump prices by greater emphasis on savings from efficient driving, alternative transport and better car choice. An AA/Populus panel survey of seven factors influencing choice of a replacement car found that fuel economy came second behind reliability at 28% while CO2 emissions came sixth at 3%. Ironically, both achieve the same aim.


"The AA strongly supports measures to encourage drivers to think about their CO2 emissions, how they could use their cars more efficiently, combine their trips with greater use of public transport and switch to more fuel-efficient vehicles. However, raising the fuel tax burden more than 6p a litre (£12.74 a month for a family with two petrol cars) from November 2008 to September 2009 and councils like Richmond introducing CO2-related parking charges to raise nearly £560,000 have severely undermined public support," says Edmund King, the AA's president.

"It is ironic that AA/Populus panel surveys show much greater driver support for buying cars with better fuel efficiency than better CO2 emissions – even though they achieve the same effect. In a time of persistently high fuel prices and stretched family budgets, ourselves, the Government and other concerned groups may be more in synch with driver concerns by emphasising the cost savings of going greener."


* "Public attitudes towards climate change and the impact of transport: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 (January 2010 report)" Department for Transport/National Statistics Opinions Survey.

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12 February 2010