Government-funded non-governmental organisation wants government to increase government...shocker

WWF's reaction to the budget shows, once again, that it views growth as the problem, not the solution, as it continues to attempt to enforce regulation and control

"Today, let's stop!"
The Commentator
On 23 March 2012 13:50

The World Wildlife Fund put its cart before the horse in an embarrassing pre-written press release on the United Kingdom budget earlier this week.

The group accused the British Government of “backing the wrong horses for economic recovery”, which roughly translates into, "We were miffed that our strain of government-subsidised environmentalism was correctly deemed less important for the United Kingdom than an economic recovery". No surprises here.

David Nussbaum, the chief executive of WWF-UK - which from 2008-11 received over £12m from the British government - insisted that the government should not achieve growth by “backing new roads, airports and draining every last drop of our oil and gas reserves”. Nussbaum concluded, "From his [Osborne's] speech, you'd think the only emissions he's keen on tackling are those from smokers."

The problem with the WWF approach is that hitting motorists (roads) tourists and businesses (airports) along with families and the elderly (gas prices) will not only punish ordinary taxpayers but contribute to pushing the UK economy back into a double-dip recession. More awkward still, WWF’s wild claims – which have no basis in either economic or scientific theory (shocking, eh?) – may actually be more harmful for the environment.

The organisation expressed 'concern over George Osborne's willingness to support high-carbon sections of the economy’, but what would happen if indeed yesterday's budget proceeded to punish road users, airports and the oil and gas industries in the same way the government this week punished smokers? 

In aviation terms, the current tax on a flight from the UK to USA for a family of four is £480. From next month, the tax increases again by double inflation, making a trip to Florida about £250 more expensive. Britain already has the highest air passenger duty rates in the world, but apparently this isn't good enough for the WWF. So we've given them more. From January 1st this year, the aviation industry was included in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (i.e. cap and trade) meaning that companies will have to purchase extra carbon credits for going over their limit. There's some more money the government can swindle and hive off to organisations like the WWF to boost their 'green credentials'. All the while, the taxpayer, holidaymaker and British economy suffocate.

And there’s more bad news. With Heathrow’s runways full to the brink and the other London airports getting there too, it is imperative for Britain's growth in a global economy to accommodate more capacity. We stand to lose as much as £14billion of trade and countless potential jobs should we fail to lead in connectivity to growth markets.

It’s at this point where one might expect a retort from greens ('Watermelons', as James Delingpole terms them; green on the outside, red on the inside – get it?), likely hinging on accusations of greed, selfishness, polar bears and all the other perceived evils of capitalism. But they’d be wrong. Expanding capacity is also imperative for (dun dun dun!) the environment.

Last week, London's smog levels hit an all-time high. Airplanes circling over the capital no doubt have a major role to play in this incredibly unhealthy trend and according to some reports, 190 tonnes of fuel is burned each day – releasing 600 tonnes of carbon dioxide at a cost of £119,000 – by planes waiting to land at Heathrow Airport alone. That’s 55 hours spent each day, just waiting to land on an overcrowded strip. But the WWF would keep you up there longer, spiralling downwards into the capital's miasma. 

Adding extra airport capacity is imperative to alleviating this waste - even if it results in more planes in the air. A new UK airport would undoubtedly be the most efficient to date (simply due to the new technologies available and the ETS scheme) and any increase in air traffic would be alleviated by the airport not being within London boundaries specifically (read: Boris Island) therefore not concentrating the smog. Moreover, increased business and government revenue from a booming economy and the ETS will assist in offsetting whatever extra carbon is created from this policy.

Our roads tell a similar story. Jean Leston, WWF UK’s senior transport policy advisor, yesterday attacked Osborne for backing new roads despite estimates that congestion currently costs British commerce and industry £20 billion a year.

But here’s where it gets really awkward once again for the green lobby. New roads would actually be beneficial to – yes, you guessed it – that space we live in which begins with ‘e’ and ends in ‘nvironment’.

Studies conducted, such as that by Matthew Barth and Kanok Boriboonsomsin, show that if congestion during peak hours were eliminated so that all vehicle miles travelled were at the average speed of 60 mph, Carbon emissions could be reduced by as much as 7 percent. That is to say, not only is time wasted behind the wheel charged to our economy by the minute, but stop-and-go velocity pattern of vehicles are also more harmful for the environment.

Building roads and airports that work better for our environment and economy on balance is the proper environmentalist method to a green recovery. So why are the WWF so opposed to Britain booming even when evidence shows that it could be achieved at less cost to our environment?

The answer inevitably lies in the organisation’s true agenda which is concerned less with the environment than it is with tackling the ills it perceives in mankind; less concerned with science than it is with politics.

The green lobby – in which WWF is far from alone – views growth as the problem, not the solution and, as its mask slips, we see not a hankering for environmentally friendly measures but instead, thinly-veiled attempts to enforce sustainability; in layman’s terms: regulation and control that stifles business, growth and hits you harder in the pocket. 

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