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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 April 2006, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Climate change fight 'moral duty'
Chancellor Gordon Brown
The developed world has a moral duty to tackle climate change, Chancellor Gordon Brown has said.

But he has resisted calls for higher fuel taxes, saying that high oil prices are enough of a burden for motorists.

The comments come as world oil prices reached record levels and UK drivers were warned the cost of petrol could reach its previous high, 96.1p a litre.

Speaking after talks in the US, he also warned that rising oil prices may threaten global economic stability.

On Friday in New York the price of a barrel of oil reached a record high of $75 (42).

We can as individuals make a difference in the way we behave and use the environment
Gordon Brown

Mr Brown said the price increases were partly down to growing demand, particularly in Asia.

This has fuelled speculation that the prices at the pumps could rise and remain high throughout the summer.

Petrol retailers said prices were unlikely to top the 1 mark but predicted an "uncomfortable" period for motorists and road hauliers.

Mr Brown said the climate change issue was an ethical one, in an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"If it is affecting both our habitat and environment and affecting those people who are dependent on that environment the most - and that is poor people in poor countries - then this has got to be looked at, not just as an economic issue but a social issue.

"And you could therefore say that it's got an ethical dimension as well."

Fuel duty freeze

He added: "There is personal and social responsibility here.

"We can as individuals make a difference in the way we behave and use the environment.

"But it's got to be matched by the measures that we take as a community as a whole. Voluntarism in itself will not be enough."

However, Mr Brown insisted that putting up taxes on energy was not the answer.

To freeze fuel duty at a time of rising oil prices is the right decision
Chancellor Gordon Brown

"To freeze fuel duty at a time of rising oil prices is the right decision and it is the right decision I made in the Budget.

"You have got to make a balanced judgement about the needs of the economy and the protection of citizens."

The high fuel prices themselves acted as a catalyst for efficiency, and adding further taxes on top would not be practical, Mr Brown said.


He also defended Labour's policies on green taxation and said the government would meet its own CO2 emission targets in the long-term, adding that it was already going beyond targets set at the Kyoto treaty on climate change.

Mr Brown's comments on climate change come after Conservative leader David Cameron pledged to replace Labour's flagship policy designed to curb carbon emissions - the climate change levy - with a new business tax or credit system.

Mr Cameron claimed the levy was not working and suggested a new system - the details of which are still to be decided.

The chancellor said it was the detail of these Tory policies that was important.

He also accused the Conservative leader - who made his green pledge during a visit to Norway - of talking more rhetoric without much substance on the issue of global warming.

The Liberal Democrats and the Greens both see themselves as the ones who have always taken the real initiative on the environment.

The Lib Dems said the Conservatives had not come up with a single hard-edged proposal to deliver emission cuts.


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