UK Climate Guru Set To Walk Out
December 9th, 2006
by James Button, London
The author of the world's most influential recent report on climate change, Sir Nicholas Stern, is to quit the British Treasury amid rumours of constant tension with Chancellor Gordon Brown.
The news came a day after the Chancellor made a pre-budget statement that embraced virtually none of the recommendations of the Stern report and dashed hopes the Blair Government would move swiftly to a new environmental agenda.
Friends of Sir Nicholas told The Times that he was frozen out of Mr Brown's inner circle, while a senior Government source said Treasury bureaucrats had to persuade the Chancellor even to take the steps he did, so reluctant is he to impose green taxes.
Green campaigners saw Mr Brown's decision to double the tax on short flights Ñ merely restoring it to the level it was five years ago Ñ and to slightly increase car fuel duty as minimal concessions to growing alarm about climate change.
Sir Nicholas issued a statement saying he had planned the move "for some time" and had enjoyed working with Mr Brown.
But relations between the two men are widely known to be tense, a Downing
Street policy adviser told The Age. He said it was understood that the Chancellor had initially asked Sir Nicholas to write his report in order to sideline him, and that it only achieved global prominence because of its timeliness.
The report Ñ which states that fighting climate change will save, not cost, the global economy money Ñ has been hugely influential around the world. Many environment ministers quoted it in addresses to the global summit in Nairobi last month. The Guardian described Sir Nicholas as the first climate change rock star.
Sir Nicholas, 60, will leave in March to take a chair at the London School of Economics. The Government lured him from the World Bank, where he was chief economist, in 2003.
Several British public servants told The Times that Mr Brown did not like some of Sir Nicholas' advice, including some "home truths" about long-term trends in the economy.
The Stern report advocates consideration of carbon and other green taxes as part of a comprehensive response to global warming. It states the cost of effectively fighting climate change would be just 1 per cent of GDP but Mr Brown's proposed new tax increases amount to just 0.1 per cent of GDP.
The Chancellor said he would waive stamp duty on new homes that are carbon neutral but environmentalists responded that new homes made up just 1 per cent of all British housing.
The air tax increases will raise the tax on 75 per cent of flights from £5 ($A12.50) to £10.