Taxpayers indirectly funding green groups through EU
by Matthew Sinclair
Funding for environmentalist campaigning is often justified on the grounds that it balances corporate lobbying against green regulations but things are not that simple - says pressure group
The European Union has provided nearly €100m in funding to environmentalist groups since 1997 under the LIFE+ programme, which claims to support green and nature projects. Recipients include the European Environmental Bureau, the World Wildlife Fund's Brussels policy office and Friends of the Earth Europe. These are major campaigns and they are receiving annual funding in EU subsidies alone equivalent to the entire budgets of many respected think-tanks.
They use that money to campaign for objectives that many of the taxpayers picking up the bill might not agree with: minimum levels of fuel duty; more draconian targets for emissions reductions that will mean higher energy bills; and tough new energy-rationing regulations. Why aren't taxpayers allowed to make up their own minds which political campaigns they want to support?
Funding for environmentalist campaigning is sometimes justified on the grounds that it balances corporate lobbying against environmental regulations. In reality of course, the debate is never between a monolithic corporate lobby that wants less regulation and scrappy environmentalists that want more. New regulations hurt some businesses and help others, either by crippling their rivals or creating new opportunities to profit at the expense of ordinary consumers.
The European Emissions Trading System, for example, increases the price of energy and therefore hurts some manufacturing firms that are competing in global markets with rivals not subject to the same burden. But energy companies have made billions in windfall profits out of the same regulation. Some of the environmentalist organisations funded under LIFE+ have been prominent supporters of the regulation and call for tougher caps. The WWF call it "a crucial cornerstone of climate change policy in the United Kingdom and Europe" and have attacked the "lax caps proposed by many member states". They may fight it out over whether or not the regulation should be adjusted to limit windfall profits - and redirect the money to governments - but they are not speaking for the poor consumer who picks up the bill.
Friends of the Earth actually sued the British Government over their bungled cuts to extravagant solar subsidies, alongside two solar companies. Taxpayers in the UK paid for both sides of the case, as well as the subsidies that they will have to keep paying a bit longer thanks to the Department of Energy and Climate Change's incompetence. Those solar companies will get more of our money.
In other cases, the environmentalist campaigns focus their ire on attacking governments they see holding up their latest legislative priority. Friends of the Earth and the Climate Action Network Europe - both recipients of extensive LIFE+ funding - recently launched a video in which a fictional 'energy savings man' abducted national representatives from a number of countries. The British representative was humming the national anthem before being tied to a chair. They are then lectured about a new European directive that would ration energy use with tough targets under the guise of efficiency.
The European Environmental Bureau attacked the Polish government as "short-sighted" for opposing a unilateral move towards a 30 per cent target for emissions reductions by 2020. That means the unelected European Commission is spending taxpayers' money funding attacks on elected governments, which do not back its policy agenda. In the end, press releases funded by government grants are no substitute for a genuine democratic debate. The money should be left in taxpayers' pockets, so that they can decide for themselves which causes to support.
Matthew Sinclair is director of The TaxPayers' Alliance pressure group, in the United Kingdom
Taxpayers 'are' allowed to 'make up their own minds which political campaigns they want to support' every time there is an election. Each taxpayer casts a vote for the candidate he thinks will best represent his interests, and that includes his political campaign interests. The environment is merely the latest in a long list of worthwhile causes that the Taxpayers' Alliance would sacrifice just to cut the tax bill of the rich. The TPA cares not one jot for the ordinary taxpayer.
Alexander - United Kingdom
Where does the Eurosceptic TaxPayers Alliance get its funding from? Google that.
Utter drivel. You say these organisations 'claim' to support green and nature projects, but your own 'research' consists of nothing but a list of funding recipients embellished with unreferenced assertions that the organisations use the money for lobbying. Undoubtedly some of it is - but what percentage? What think-tank worth its salt would not be embarrassed to put something as flimsy as this, if they had any objective beyond getting an anti-EU headline, in the UK press?
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