climsay

11/06/19

CLIMATE CHANGE MEASURES MUSTN’T DISPROPORTIONATELY AFFECT THE LESS WELL OFF

The announcement by the Chief Minister that the Isle of Man was facing a ‘climate change emergency’came as something of a surprise to many people, given government’s rather haphazard approach to environmental issues to date.

Given the mounting scientific evidence few would now argue that concerted global action is required to curtail the damaging effects the human race is having on the planet and its occupants.  The gloomiest predictions suggest that if all the major industrialised countries of the world don’t make some drastic changes in their approach to environmental issues we could find ourselves passing the point of no return within a decade.

It’s right that the Isle of Man should play its part in this important process, however small our ‘global’ contribution is. But, if the government is going to get everybody singing from the same hymn sheet it has to come up with sensible, achievable goals that don’t mean that it’s the poorer members of society that carry the greatest burden from changes that are imposed.

The Manx Government’s track record is, at best, patchy when it comes to environmental concerns. Many grants that used to be available for a range of home improvements such as loft insulation and property re-wiring disappeared a long time ago. Then there’s the recent decision to charge people for the disposal of fridges, freezers TVs etc, when the sad truth is that some people would rather chuck their unwanted appliances over a hedge than pay to drop them at a utility site.

One of the ‘emergency’ measures announced by the government has been a commitment to ban the fitting of all fossil fuel boilers in new homes by 2025. Can we assume that electricity charges will then be subsidised so that people can afford to heat their homes with energy provided from our lovely gas fired power station? 

The 2025 target looks like a knee-jerk reaction. For example, what’s not explained is whether people in older properties whose boilers need replacing post 2025, will also be banned from fitting new gas, oil or solid fuel appliances? Viable, environmentally friendly alternatives can be hugely expensive and beyond the budgets of ordinary people. Will government be prepared to make large sums available to help people make the switch? To be fair Mr Quayle has promised the return of the Energy Efficiency Grant Scheme, the details of which have just been announced. The ‘refreshed’ Energy Efficiency Scheme campaign will aim to assist residents with their fuel bills and help reduce usage of fossil fuels. The Isle of Man Government will provide up to £1,000 towards home improvements to support this. Private renters or homeowners who earn £29,000 for a single person, or £43,000 combined for a jointly assessed couple can apply for the scheme online.

According to the Chief Minister the Climate Change Bill will commit the government and future administrations to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 in line with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. New fossil fuel cars will be banned by 2040 and cycle racks and showers will be installed at all suitable public buildings, as well as introducing incentives for tree planting under the imminent revisions of the agricultural support scheme.

If the government is really serious in its bid to bring about change it has a huge amount of work to do. It must involve all sections of the community in the process. That includes businesses, charities, lobby groups and the media. 

However well intentioned the changes are there must be a realisation that some of the more draconian measures will hit lower income earners considerably more than the better off in our society. Government’s most difficult task will be ensuring that the ordinary man or woman in the street isn’t disproportionately disadvantaged.

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