The green machine fuelled by your taxes

Green non-governmental organisations (NGOs) often present a benign image to the world: pushing back against polluters, safeguarding forests from loggers or highlighting the purported dangers of nuclear power.

But a lot of these groups indirectly raise costs for households across the UK and it is often because of the largesse of British and European taxpayers that these groups can function.

Over the last decade, €87m was given to environmentalist groups by the European Commission, of which the UK contributed a sizeable proportion. This comes on top of the considerable outlays made by the UK government to many of the same groups.

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The lobbying of ministers and politicians by the likes of Greenpeace also punishes taxpayers. For instance, this has entailed meetings with British cabinet ministers and senior European Commission officials who subsequently introduce measures which raise a family’s heating bill, such as the renewable energy directive. This means that we pay twice, both for the grants given to these organisations, and then for the higher prices that result from lobbying.

They have also attempted to directly influence UK elections. Friends of the Earth were fined by the Electoral Commission for supporting parliamentary candidates in the 2015 general election because they exceeded the maximum spending amount and failed to register properly. They received €7.6m from the European Commission over a ten year period.

But beyond the cost to taxpayers, green NGOs are also being duplicitous. If they truly are independent arbiters of good environmental policies, why do they need the support of taxpayers to lobby government in the first place? Direct lobbying can have tangible impact on legislation which affects us all. This means that green NGOs are effectively operating as public corporations, but with little public scrutiny.

Indirectly, these groups have raised costs which have been felt by households across the UK. The Pesticide Action Network, which has received more than €710,000 from the European Commission over the past decade, has been vociferously campaigning against the use of glyphosate, a commonly used weed killer.

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They claim it is a “potentially cancer-inducing chemical” in spite the EU’s own chemical regulator declaring there is insufficient evidence to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen. Some councils have already adopted much more expensive alternatives. Should all others follow suit it will cost council tax payers an extra £228m a year.

The arrests in Kirby Misperton this week shows the strength of feeling that fracking invites. Yet real economic benefits have already come about from shale exploitation. The increased energy supply, and direct competition with oil, has helped to keep the price of consumer goods, petrol and chemicals lower than they otherwise would have been.

But groups like RSPB, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have successfully lobbied to prevent exploration for shale gas taking place in Wiltshire, and published misleading advertising regarding fracking.

A recent study from the University of Edinburgh suggests that within ten years, North Sea oil and gas will be almost entirely depleted. The time to start exploiting inland energy resources and reducing energy bills for families has never been more pressing.

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The effects of these organisations are to increase the cost of living for many. The most recent government figures show that 11 per cent of households in England are in fuel poverty, and the average duel fuel energy bill now exceeds £1,200. The cost of climate change energy policies, actively promoted by the above organisations, adds over £100; this could double by 2030 in order to meet carbon reduction targets.

The average spend on food is now almost £3,000 for each household in the UK. Taxpayer-funded ‘neutral’ NGOs have, in part, been the drivers of this price inflation for many essential goods. Our departure from the EU (which, for obvious reasons, many green NGOs resent) could also see the elimination of tariffs, driving down food prices.

Many would be appalled to know that their hard-earned money is being funnelled to groups who don’t have taxpayers’ interests at heart. It’s time we looked beyond their inoffensive façade and start asking harder questions of the green lobby.

Duncan Simpson is a policy analyst at the Taxpayers' Alliance

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