News Climate Change and Nature

New survey finds broad public support for green taxes

A Green Alliance poll of over 2000 people finds 6 in 10 support green taxes and only one in ten oppose.

Credit: Matthias Zomer from Pexels

Credit: Matthias Zomer from Pexels

Respondents felt that specific types of green taxes were a good idea, including carbon taxes on producers or consumers, greening the VAT system and implementing new material taxes. 

This, they say, gives government a mandate to start to green the tax system through Treasury’s imminent Net Zero Review.

Whilst the Green Alliance assert that taxes alone cannot be the solution to the environmental crisis, they say reforms should be implemented alongside other policy measures and carefully designed to ensure efficiency and fairness. 

The findings show: 

Greening the tax system is widely supported

Six in ten people support the principle of green taxes, with only one in ten opposing it. Specifically:

  • Carbon taxes on producers (ie paid by manufacturers) was supported by 57%, and opposed by only 5%.
  • Carbon taxes on consumers (ie paid by the consumer at the till) was supported by 53%, and opposed by 12%.
  • Greening the VAT system (ie adding VAT to the most environmentally damaging products and making greener choices VAT free) was supported by 54%, and opposed by 9%.
  • All three had more support than vehicle taxes like congestion charges (supported by 37%, and opposed by 24%).

People believe the government should do more about, and spend more on, environmental issues

80% believe the government should be responsible for dealing with environmental issues, and 62% want higher government spending to address them.

People believe they can do more, too

People also believe responsibility extends to them: 63% feel it is important to change their own lifestyle to tackle climate change and 64% say they have already made some changes.

Libby Peake, head of resource policy at Green Alliance, said: 

“Tax is one of the most powerful tools government has to deliver policy, shape the economy and give people and businesses alike incentives to do the right thing. In the fight against climate change and nature’s decline, it’s not being used to anything like its full potential. Far too often the system rewards bad behaviour and punishes those who want to do the right thing. This survey shows people want that to change and there is a mandate for the Treasury to reset its approach in its forthcoming Net Zero Review.” 

Ruth Westcott, Climate and Nature Emergency co-ordinator at Sustain, said 

"This is yet more evidence that the government is out of step with public opinion on green taxes. The Sugary Drinks Industry Levy has shown just how successful smart taxes on food can be, motivating manufacturers to reformulate and encouraging innovation. A tax on the most environmentally damaging foods could be a very successful way to help make good decisions easier, without limiting consumer choices. If tax revenues were spent on making climate-friendly foods like fruit and vegetables more accessible and affordable, this could be a win-win for the climate and our health."

Download the Green Alliance poll.

Find out more about Sustain's work on the climate and nature emergency

Sustain led the coalition of organisations that successfully called for a levy on sugary drinks. According to the first direct evaluation, when the Chancellor announced the policy, around 52% of eligible soft drinks were liable for the tax. The sugary drinks tax came into force in April 2018 and by February 2019, only 15% of soft drinks were still liable.  

Published Thursday 29 April 2021

Climate Change and Nature: Sustain has taken a keen interest in the rapidly accumulating evidence about the effect of food and farming on climate change and nature, as scientific evidence emerges that our food system is a very significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss.

Latest related news

Support our charity

Donate to enhance the health and welfare of people, animals and the planet.


The Green House
244-254 Cambridge Heath Road
London E2 9DA

020 3559 6777

Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

© Sustain 2024
Registered charity (no. 1018643)
Data privacy & cookies