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A report published February 8 2006, recommends a radical overhaul of the UK tax system, proposing inefficiency charges on products that waste energy and water and new fiscal incentives to reward consumers for making greener choices.


Commissioned by environmental think-tank, Green Alliance, the research carried out by the Policy Studies Institute says that measures to reduce energy consumption will not work unless accompanied by tougher policy measures. Domestic households currently account for 28% of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions, more than half our water consumption and ten per cent of waste.


The report recommends council tax reductions for householders installing insulation and energy conservation measures and the nationwide introduction of water meters. Local authorities should also experiment with variable waste charging, says the report, which would enable them to charge for the amount of unsorted rubbish households currently throw out. Describing the measures as a Green Living Initiative, report authors say that the aim is to restrain demand for energy and water as a compliment to increasing the efficiency of our homes and the products we use.


The report proposes measures to discourage environmentally damaging behaviour, including inefficiency charges on products such as disposable batteries and cameras, garden sprinklers and incandescent light bulbs, policed by a proposed new watchdog called the Products Agency. Prominent messages about the reason for the charge would be displayed on the products targeted.


The report is being published as the government asks serious questions about how to supply the rising demand for energy and as Southern Water contemplates diverting water from the River Medway to ease the worst drought for more than twenty years.


Report author Rebecca Willis said, "People are concerned about the environment but don't know what they can do to help. Government needs to set the framework to take the pain out of being green and the tax system has a crucial role to play in making that happen. The Green Living Initiative would make the link between people's awareness of environmental problems such as climate change, and their understanding of what they can do about it in their own home."


Guy Thompson, Director of Green Alliance said, "The stalling of the green tax agenda can only mean the environment is Gordon Brown's blind spot. With rising oil prices and David Cameron raising the stakes, the Chancellor must be looking over his shoulder and pondering his green credentials. He needs to use the Budget and Spending Review to raise the Treasury's game on the environment. A package of green tax measures linked to behaviour change is right on the button."


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