Climate change battle doesn't mean higher taxes, says minister

The battle against global warming can be fought without imposing more 'green taxes' in Britain, the science minister has told MSN.

Science Minister David Willetts interview

Science Minister David Willetts interview
Duration: 4:27 Views: 3k Exclusives

During a visit to the Antarctic last week, David Willetts took questions from MSN readers on a range of issues associated with climate change.

The minister insisted that failure to act will have costs for the UK as populations are displaced by droughts, floods and other changes in the environment. But he also insisted that any measures to limit the effects of climate change need to be balanced by economic considerations.

"Everything we do both combatting global warming and adjusting to global warming has to be properly calculated. Nobody's trying to say you suspend all the laws of economics," he told MSN. "I very much hope we can adapt and combat climate change without putting up higher taxes."

The work done by the British Antarctic Survey's base at Rothera, which hosted the minister on his trip, is vital towards assessing the potential costs and possible benefits that will come about as global temperatures rise, he added.

The government spends £40 million a year on research in the region including measuring how fast the continent's ice is melting. Mr Willetts said current projections suggest sea levels will rise by up to a metre this century.

Even if other countries are refusing to act, the British government will remain committed to putting in place measures to curb emissions.

Canada became the latest major economy to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol at the end of last year over fears of the cost of the measures. The government in Ottawa argued that the legally binding agreement to cut production of greenhouse gases was pointless and unfair in the absence of China and the US, the world's two biggest polluters.

David Willetts in the Antarctic

David Willetts wanted to see how British research money is spent

Asked what place nuclear power has in Britain's environmental policy, Mr Willetts said it had "much less of an effect on the environment than many of the other sources of energy it could displace."

"We believe that going back to nuclear power is a very green policy," he added.

One of the most popular questions from MSN readers was over why the minister had felt it necessary to travel to the research base. He said it was important to see first-hand the effects of global warming and check on how research money was being spent. The flights he used to reach his destination were regular supply connections so the cost to the taxpayer was minimised, he said.