Green measures for International Mother Earth Day
In the second of two articles to mark International Mother Earth Day, Reshma Johar explores some of the grants and initiatives designed to help protect the environment.
As part of its legislative commitment to cut net emissions back to the 1990 levels (“net zero), the government implemented a range of environmentally friendly tax measures. Its incentives for sustainability don’t stop there, however, and are backed by a broad range of grants and support schemes, detailed below with information from the energy regulator Ofgem.
Green home grant
The Green home grant featured in the Budget 2020 green recovery programme that set aside £1.5bn for householders in England. The green home grant became available in September 2020 and offers up to £5,000 towards paying part of the cost of energy saving measures such as insulation. Low-income households can get 100% of the costs of work covered up to £10,000. According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, more than 23,000 applications for the grant were made by the end of February, but only 28,000 vouchers had been issued and only 5,800 measures had been installed. In a drive to get more buy-in, the grant has been extended until end of March 2022.
Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) schemes
The 2020 Budget extended RHI for a further year to 31 March 2022. It was introduced in April 2014 to encourage the use of renewable heat and reduce carbon emissions. Payments would be made for a period of seven years provided all conditions were met. According to Ofgem’s 2020 annual report, 12,502 accreditations were made on the domestic scheme in 2019/20, an increase of 64.6% compared to 2018/19 (7,597 accreditations). The total number of accreditations since the domestic scheme launched now stands at 78,206. A consultation was released in 2020 seeking views on the closure of the scheme.
Plug-in car grant
Designed to cut CO2 emissions and meet emmissions targets, the plug-in car grant pays up to £2,500 (down from £3,000) towards the purchase of a plug-in vehicle costing less than £35,000. It is also possible to get up to £350 (including VAT) off the cost of installing a charger at home via the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme. According to Next Greencar, 2020 saw the biggest annual increase in number of registrations, with more than 175,000 electric vehicles registered – up 66% on 2019.
London congestion charge
The London congestion charge is raised on most cars and motor vehicles driving within the three controlled zones (congestion charge, ultra-low emission zone and low emission zone). Originally introduced to central London in 2003, the zones have expanded to more of the metropolis. The daily congestion charge is currently £15 if paid in advance, or £17.50 by midnight of the third charging day after travel. The other charges will depend on the type of vehicle and its weight. Penalties are issued for non-payment of the charge.
Plastic bag 5p charge
Surely you either have a bag on you or you find cleaver ways to carry your shopping home? Since October 2015, large shops in England have been required to charge 5p for all single-use plastic carrier bags. The total number of single use plastic carrier bags reported by all retailers in 2019/20 was 564m compared with 1.11bn by all retailers who reported in 2018/19. The charge reduced sales of single use plastic bags by the main supermarket retailers by 59% between 2019 and 2020. While the charge has definitely deterred purchases of single-use plastic bags, there still seems to be an unlimited supply of plastic bags if you need to buy a handful of fruit or veg.
The plastic bag charge is not a tax and therefore not a revenue raiser. The government had hoped instead that the large shops would use the money on good causes and report what they have done, if anything, with the money raised from plastic bag sale. Around 40% of the retailers reported on how they chose to donate proceeds to good causes from the £9.2m raised by the plastic bag charge in 2020.
In the words of Greta Thunberg, “The real power belongs to the people.” We have a duty and responsibility to act now to help save our planet.
Being environmentally friendly often means spending more money. If everyone is going to buy into the effort, sustainable products also need to be accessible for lower income households.
Announced at the 2020 Budget, the government will double its investment in flood and coastal defences in England to £5.2bn over the next 6 years. Can we really wait until 2050 to achieve net zero?
International Mother Earth Day
Established by the United Nations, 22 April this year is designated as International Mother Earth Day to encourage everyone to recall how Earth provides life and sustenance. Mother Earth is used because it reflects the interdependence that exists among human beings, other living species and the planet we all inhabit.
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Reshma Johar is a Tax Consultant at Carter Backer Winter. She is both ATT and CTA qualified with experience gained from practice and her involvement with the CIOT. She has a particular interest in OMB and private client taxes.