Environmental advisers to the UK government are urging more radical action to promote green lifestyles.
Air travel should be taxed for its carbon emissions, the SCR says
The Sustainable Consumption Roundtable (SCR) says people need a clear lead from government.
Its report, I Will If You Will, urges measures such as taxing flights, rewarding water conservation and banning over-fishing of cod.
It says consultation shows that people want to adopt greener habits, but many believe individual action is futile.
Action stimulated by regulation can be effective and go down well with the public, it adds, citing the example of standards mandating energy-efficient boilers.
The SCR report comes after 18 months of consultations with members of the public, businesses and other stakeholders across Britain.
"Going green can be smart and stylish," commented SCR co-chair Ed Mayo, "but it is not yet simple.
"We want to call the bluff of politicians, to take action to make the sustainable choice the easier choice."
In the mainstream
The report's main conclusion is that people are generally quite happy with measures which bring positive environmental results, even at some cost to themselves, so long as those measures are applied fairly.
This means, says the SCR, that government must take a lead in mandating and implementing such measures rather than waiting for consumers or business to act first.
"Government and business must focus fairly and squarely on mainstream consumers, rather than expecting the heroic minority of green shoppers to shop society's way out of unsustainability," it declares.
Among the concrete measures it proposes are:
Government could take a clear leadership role, the SCR feels, by committing to making all its own activities carbon-neutral.
- a tax, with an opt-out mechanism, on air travel to compensate for carbon emissions
- making on-site energy generation common in homes and public buildings
- rolling out "smart" meters to raise awareness of energy consumption
- creating a major cost incentive to buy efficient cars
- removing threatened fish such as cod from sale until stocks recover
The SCR is a joint initiative between the Sustainable Development Commission and the National Consumer Council, supported financially by Defra and the DTI.