Libby Peake: Hi. Thanks very much for being here. I'm really excited to talk to you about the policy options for reducing emissions from what we buy. And just to remind you, the policy options are the things that government can do that affect both businesses and people. There's a lot of options, and I'm not going to cover all of them. But I'm going to cover some of the key ones, and what you've just heard is about five different ours produce, repair, reuse, recycle and recover in the order of the most preferable to the least preferable. And what we're about to do is do a quick run-through of the options in reverse order. So I'll talk about things that I could potentially affect recycling in the first instance, and then look at things that might affect the overall societal use of resources later on.#
So the first option is commonly called pay-as-you-throw. But I'll say here that there's a growing movement that it should be called save as you recycle. And the aim here is to really make sure that you're recycling as much as you can and putting it as little as possible into your black bins or your black bags. And so the way that this would work is that households pay for the amount of waste that you put out. But you wouldn't pay for recycling, or if you did pay for recycling, it would be less. Same thing with food waste, you might pay less. It's already used in for businesses in the UK, and it's similar to what you might use for garden waste. If some of you have garden waste services, you might pay for those. And the logic behind that is that it is common to many high recycling societies. So places like Belgium and Germany that have really high recycling rates, they've all got this sort of system. It also rewards good behaviour. So if you guys are good recyclers and I hope that all of you are, you are effectively subsidising your neighbours who aren't good recyclers because you all pay exactly the same amount for your recycling services. So this is a more fair way of paying for it. The potential cons, or that it could impact low-income households or larger households more than the rich households. And there are also fears over litter, so people are trying to avoid charges. You think they might go out and secretly dump things in the woods. I would say that those might be overblown, based on experiences in other countries and also in Guernsey, which has recently introduced those and said that they didn't have a problem with that.#
The next one is something that's not going to affect you necessarily. It's more on producers. It's a concept called extended producer responsibility, and the aim is to really make polluters pay for their impacts. And so the logic is that the people who are making the decisions about what's being put on the market, who are looking at the design, they're the ones that then are responsible for the full costs of the impacts of what they're putting on the market. As it's being designed and used in the UK because we do already have some form of producer responsibility and we're going to get more for packaging and for some other waste streams. It has largely focused on the end of life, so waste disposal costs and not necessarily on the full life cycle, which is the potential con on this on this slide, but there are definitely pros. The first of all is that it targets those who are having who can have the most impact, most control over the impact. And it encourages better design. Con is that it is - it can be quite complicated and deciding who's going to pay for what and who is the one that has the most potential to change things can be a challenge in terms of deciding where the fees are set.#
The next is a concept of advertising bans, and this is to discourage harmful or unnecessary purchases. We've heard that we're making a lot of purchases that we don't need. And so the theory is that if we ban advertising for them, we might be less inclined to buy them. And so this would rely on identifying either polluting products or sectors like fast fashion, which would then wouldn't be allowed to advertise. It could also tie into some advertising regulations that are coming in already on children, for children. So you're not allowed to advertise junk food at children basically, and this could be an extension of that. The pros are that it stops what's called manufactured needs. That sort of things that John was talking about, where you think all of a sudden because you've seen an ad or a celebrity with the latest iPhone that you need it. But in actuality you don't really need it. So the theory is that if you don't see the ads for it, you don't see the people saying telling you to buy it. You won't feel that need. It's also a logical extension of the bans that we've got on things that are harming our health, so, like tobacco and on junk food for children. So - if there's something that's harming environmental health, you can use the same logic and say, "well, we shouldn't be advertising those". The cons are that there are some questions of effectiveness. Certainly with tobacco bans, there are plenty of people who think it wasn't actually the advertising ban that drove change there, but actually just banning smoking in public spaces and making it really expensive. And then the other problem is that it's quite difficult to police online spaces, especially if you might get websites from all over the world, or you might have media influencers who are more difficult to control.#
The next option is resource efficiency standards. And this would be aiming to make sure that you are getting the best possible products on the market. So it works by identifying what product - what standard the product has to meet. So it's only allowed on the market, say if it's going to last a certain amount of time, if it can be repaired easily, or if it can be reused. This has already been used quite effectively in terms of energy efficiency of products. So you'll know that we have much more efficient hoovers. We've got much more efficient lights now. That's because the standards like this. And they also have had the knock-off effect of saving consumers a lot of money. So because of the energy efficiency regulations that we've had on products, the average household has saved about £400 every year on their electricity bills. And so there's a logic that we should now extend this to cover not just the energy that products use but how they're made and whether or not they can be repaired, specifically the right to repair whether or not people like you can access the parts that are broken and repair them yourselves, which could make things a lot easier for you. A con is that it can be -its quite a laborious process to set standards. You have to do it on a product by product basis. So far, it's only been used on energy-using products, and it might be more difficult to set standards that everyone can meet on things like furniture and whatnot. And you could also require some tradeoffs. For - if you're looking at things like operability. So it might last longer. It might be difficult to make something that both last long and is easily repairable and disassemblable. So you might have to make tradeoffs about what factors are most important.#
The next one is something that it's not targeted at people. It's targeted at the high impact sectors. And so we know that there are certain sectors in society like construction, like vehicles you saw on those first lines that have a really big impact. And so the idea behind this would be to determine which sectors have the biggest impact, to determine what sort of improvements they could make, and then the government would set standards. So if you're looking at something like construction, which we know has a lot of room to do a lot better, the government could set a standard that potentially looks at how much emissions you're able to create per metre square of building that's put up. The pros of this, is that the specific sectors that we know have a high impact are made to reduce their emissions and potentially material use, and this could offer potentially quick wins. The cons are that it can be a challenge to identify those to hold to account. And there are problems with potentially, really quite complex supply chains and holding people to account, especially if you've got small businesses. Who is the target set for, and how do you make sure that they meet it?#
The next is another one that's also on producers. So not necessarily on you. It's a tax on producers to ensure that they lower the impact of the fuels that they're using and also of the material choices that they make. It's already used to some extent for fuels. But there's a logic to also extended to material choices. So to make sure that people are using recycled content where it's available, or using lower carbon content material wherever that's possible. The pros and that it's already slightly improved energy use in some ways, although some people say it's not being as effective as it might be. The other pros that it could discourage unnecessarily material use. So again for virgin materials, the Treasury is looking to institute a tax that would encourage more plastic recycled content in materials. So you could also drive material use changes there. The cons of that again, it can be quite difficult to calculate and administer, especially from the goods that come from abroad. And there are worries here that either these taxes might trickle down and affect people, or they might not actually over -reduce overall the amount of emissions that are created in the world. If we're hurting UK businesses, we're putting these on UK businesses, but we can't put them on people abroad.#
The next one is taxes on products or services. So this is something that you would see. This is something that would affect you. And the aim here would be to encourage people to buy greener goods and services. And this could be done by potentially replacing VAT. So instead of having that sort of standard tax on lots of different products, green products and services would have much lower taxes or no taxes or even negative taxes, in some instances. And the ones harm the planet would have higher taxes, and the pro here is that it makes green products more affordable. So it's the opposite of what people see a lot of the time that if you want to buy something sustainable, it might be more expensive. So this would reverse that, and also if it's used on services. So if you don't have to pay any tax on repair services or on repairing or retrofitting your building, it could encourage that sort of reuse and repair that we heard. The con is that it is potentially unfair because people who are wealthy, who we know have the biggest impact anyway, they're most likely to be able to continue spending as they do now.#
And finally, potentially having the biggest impact is a personal allowance. So the aim here is to fairly distribute emissions from what we buy. So if you remember John's slide that showed the different impacts, the different income groups have, this would address that by making sure that everyone, no matter what the impact, no matter what their income, has the same budget of credit from carbon emissions to spend and you'd have to calculate depending on impact. They could potentially also be traded or owed, like money. The pros of this are that it's fair. It's most fair way to distribute change across this across society. It also would make you really aware of the impact of what you're doing, because if you have to budget it and you have to calculate it, then you know the impact of everything. The cons are that the - some people feel like this feels like rationing, and they don't like that. And it's also potentially quite complex to administer if you have to understand the impact of all the purchases that everyone makes. So that was a very quick run-through lots of things. I'm happy to answer loads of questions during the session, but thank you very much for your time.
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