June 12, 2024

Jeremy Hunt has been warned that combating the climate emergency will require higher taxes on wealth and big corporate polluters at the autumn statement rather than a package of giveaways for the rich.

In the run-up to the chancellor’s speech to the Commons on Wednesday, a group of 19 leading charities and campaigners – including Greenpeace, Christian Aid and Patriotic Millionaires UK – said billions of pounds could be raised to help finance decarbonisation.

Writing in an open letter shared with the Guardian, the group said urgent reforms were required to make Britain’s tax system fairer and more efficient, while ensuring that wealthy individuals and heavy polluters paid their fair share.

Hunt was over the weekend weighing up cutting inheritance tax in an attempt to revitalise the Conservatives’ faltering performance in opinion polls before the general election, which is widely expected in 2024.

However, the organisations, which also include Friends of the Earth, the Women’s Budget Group and Fuel Poverty Action, said higher taxes on wealth were required to tackle inequality and ensure the green transition is fair for everyone.

Highlighting the prime minister’s comments made in September that it “cannot be right for Westminster to impose … significant costs on working people” to meet net zero carbon emissions, the charities told Hunt: “We agree.”

They added: “It is widely accepted that those with the widest shoulders should bear the burden of additional costs. Therefore, raising taxes on the wealthiest people and on big corporate polluters is critical to support the level of government spending required.”

Rishi Sunak drew an angry response from campaigners and business leaders after watering down the UK’s net zero policies as he sought to draw dividing lines with Labour in the run-up to the election.

While promising to invest up to £28bn in green jobs and industry towards the end of a first Labour term in government, Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, has ruled out new taxes on wealth. Labour has promised to scrap non-dom status, charge VAT on private school fees, and launch a more extensive windfall tax on energy company profits.

Setting out proposals to raise billions of pounds for the exchequer to help fund the green transition, the charities said a 1-2% wealth tax on assets worth more than £10m could raise up to £22bn a year.

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They also suggest using the autumn statement to close loopholes within existing tax measures – such as closing inheritance tax loopholes costing £1.4bn a year, or raising the rate of capital gains tax to match income tax rates, to raise £15.2bn a year, and reforming non-dom status to raise £3.2bn a year.

The campaigners said extra money raised could help to fund retraining schemes for workers in high-carbon industries, subsidies to reduce public transport, and for social tariffs in the energy market to help household struggling to afford their bills.

Rebecca Newsom, the head of politics at Greenpeace UK, said: “There’s no lack of money to make this a reality. If Rishi Sunak means a word he says about a green transition that works for ordinary folks, then he should force those most responsible for causing the problem to fund measures that would improve the lives of millions of people.”

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