Bill Carmichael: The link between green taxes and fuel povery as ‘Schools for Climate Action’ strikes

THOUSANDS of pupils are expected to walk out of classes across the UK today in protest against global warming.

Fuel poverty is a legacy of green taxes, argues Bill Carmichael, as students across Yorkshire prepare for protests calling for action.

Schools in Huddersfield, Leeds, Sheffield and Scarborough are amongst those expected to be hit by the “Schools for Climate Action” strikes.

The movement has been inspired by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl who held a solo protest outside the Stockholm Parliament last November to demand action to curb carbon emissions.

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Since then, the movement has blossomed with an estimated 70,000 children in 270 towns and cities 
around the world taking part in similar protests.

Now the movement is coming to the UK with today’s co-ordinated day of action resulting in pupil walkouts in 30 towns and cities across the country.

Remarkably, the strikes have been backed by the headteachers’ union, the NAHT, with a spokesman saying: “When you get older pupils making an informed decision, that kind of thing needs to be applauded.

“Society makes leaps forward when people are prepared to take action.”

More responsible voices have pointed out the danger of disorder that could put children’s safety at risk, and some have described the protests as organised truancy.

And there are also fears that the protests have been hijacked by extremist activists to promote radical green propaganda.

I find myself torn by this. It is fantastic that young people are engaging with the difficult issues that face the planet, but I wonder if the nuances of the debate will be lost amongst the placard waving and showing off.

I suspect many pupils will join the protests for the larks, without thinking seriously about what the radical green agenda means. Wouldn’t it be better to organise a series of school debates with invited speakers to explore the issues?

If this happened, perhaps it could be pointed out to these idealistic young people that green taxes backed by environmental activists invariably hit the poor hardest.

In the UK electricity prices, for example, have increased by 50 per cent in little over 10 years, forcing millions of the poorest and most vulnerable into fuel poverty where they face the unenviable choice of either heating or eating. Some 17 per cent of all British households are now classed as ‘energy poor’ partly because of green taxes.

As a result about 50,000 mainly elderly people die unnecessarily in the UK each year because they cannot afford to heat their homes properly – all so we can pay lavish green subsidies to enable rich people to cover their roofs with solar panels. It is a shaming scandal.

The same has happened in Germany where electricity prices have increased by around 80 per cent since 2000, driving seven million households into fuel poverty.

And if you impose a flat ‘green’ tax on motor fuel – as President Emmanuel Macron tried to do in France – it hurts the poor more because fuel costs represent a bigger proportion of their income than the rich.

In reality green taxes act as Robin Hood in reverse – they steal from the poor in order to give subsidies to the rich.

In contrast cheap and plentiful electricity is one of the surest routes out of poverty both here and in the developing world, promoting economic growth and providing jobs.

Or take the radical green approach to air travel, which is to take us back to the 1930s when no one other than the rich could afford the cost of a plane ticket.

Those pupil protesters should understand that it would mean the end of the gap year trips to Peru and Thailand if that ever happens.

And perhaps those young people would then be prompted to ask why they should be forced to give up their dreams of air travel when world leaders preaching for urgent action on climate change at Davos this year used 1,500 private jets to travel to the Swiss resort – an 11 per cent increase on last year?

I am afraid the hypocrisy of the green movement stinks far worse than a composting toilet.

So my advice to the young people on strike today is don’t believe everything that the grown-ups tell you – find out the facts for yourself. And once you have done the research you may come to understand the terrible but undeniable truth – green taxes kill the poor.