£44 billion a year damage caused by fossil fuel industry in UK

New report shows it’s time for industry to stump up. ​​​​​​​“You pollute, you pay.”  says Friends of the Earth as they call for a new carbon tax.
  Published:  24 Mar 2019    |      2 minute read

The UK coal, oil and gas industries cause £44 billion pounds of damage each year according to a new estimate by Friends of the Earth. This figure only assesses the impact of fossil fuels on climate change and excludes other damaging factors such as air pollution on health.

The calculation is based on recent assessments of the ‘Social Cost of Carbon’ by academics . It costs the damage done by each tonne of greenhouse gas emissions. The fossil fuel industry in the UK includes coal, oil and gas companies, the ‘big 6’ energy companies, and oil refineries who until now have had a free ride.

Friends of the Earth is calling for the ‘polluter pays’ principle to be adhered to with carbon taxes levied on the fossil fuel industry to pay for this damage. The green group argues that £22 billion a year of additional public investment is needed to make housing energy efficient and fit eco-heating, improve public transport, support further development of renewable energy and increase tree planting in order to deal with climate change – and that a carbon tax should contribute to these costs.

The government’s spending review this year is critical to the UK meeting its obligations to meet legally-binding carbon reduction targets and to deliver on its Paris Agreement climate change commitments. The fossil fuel industry needs to foot their fair share of the bill as they continue to profit from damaging fossil fuels.

Friends of the Earth outlines the case for an additional:

  • £10 billion a year for a home energy efficiency and eco-heating renovation programme;
  • £6 billion a year for cycling, walking and public transport;
  • £2.3 billion a year to increase the uptake of electric cars, vans and buses;
  • £1 billion to scale-up and speed-up the development of renewable energy, particularly off-shore win;
  • £1.5 billion a year for habitat restoration (peat bogs, salt marshes) and tree planting to drawdown carbon dioxide; and
  • £1 billion a year for extreme weather protection from increased flooding and fires

Climate change is already leading to floods, extended droughts, and wildfires around the world. This is after planetary warming of just 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

We are heading for 3°C warming by 2100 and the impact of this higher level of would be catastrophic, and species ending.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported in October 2018 on what continued warming would mean. From the melting of the West Antarctic ice sheets resulting in multi-metre sea level rises, to risks from diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, which are projected to increase with warming from 1.5°C to 2°C, the disastrous effects from runaway climate change are clear.

Mike Childs, Head of Policy for Friends of the Earth, said:

“If you pollute, you pay. It’s a simple fix to help avoid catastrophic climate breakdown. For decades the oil, coal and gas industry has extracted, processed, sold and profited from fossil fuels. We now know these fuels have to be kept in the ground if we are to mitigate the challenge of climate chaos. The costs of this industry are being felt by people and nature across the world through more extreme weather, such as floods, droughts and wildfires. It’s time the industry is held to account for the range of damage it causes and is made to foot much of the bill for the transition to clean energy.”

Mike Childs added:

“Whatever happens with Brexit, the cliff-edge that is definitely approaching is carbon pricing policies in the UK. The short-term costs of shifting to a low-carbon future are far lower than the devastating human and environmental cost of business as usual. The simple principle that the polluter should pay to clean up their mess is long-overdue implementation.”

Friends of the Earth will publish more on carbon tax and how it can be administered throughout 2019.