Greens urge taxes to protect climate

Parliamentary group proposes doubling energy prices as part of shift to ecological taxation

The Green group in the European Parliament has called for a doubling in EU energy prices by 2005 as part of an "ecological tax reform" to protect the environment and safeguard jobs.

In a statement released today, the Greens welcomed the European Commission's recent proposal to increase and broaden the scope of EU minimum tax rates on energy products, but described it as "timid" (ENDS Daily 13 March).

Magda Aelvoet, president of the EU Greens, said that the Commission proposal would only reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, by 2-4% by 2005. The Greens want a minimum EU tax on non-renewable energies of Ecu1.4 per gigajoule energy content and Ecu75 per tonne of carbon emitted by 2005. The group says that this would double energy prices, and would help the EU to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20% from 1990 to 2005.

EU environment ministers have agreed a more modest target of cutting emissions of three greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, by 15% by 2010. National targets agreed by member states would achieve only two-thirds of this (ENDS Daily 3 March).

The Greens' proposal is a major plank in its strategy to promote green taxation as a fiscally neutral alternative to taxes on labour. Today, the group said that energy and environment taxes across the EU were only 2.9% of gross national product in 1994, compared with an implicit tax rate on employed labour of 40.5%, which is up from 35% in 1980.

The Greens want "special taxes" on motor and aircraft fuels. The group is demanding a doubling of current EU minimum excise rates on petrol and diesel by 2000, followed by year-on-year increases of 7% for 20 years. It wants similar taxes applied to aircraft fuels, which are currently exempted from excise duty and sales tax internationally (ENDS Daily 12 March).

The Greens' statement also calls for EU taxes on solid waste and pesticides. The group wants a minimum charge of Ecu16 per tonne of municipal waste landfilled, and suggests that some countries should also tax waste incineration.

Few if any of the measures proposed by the Greens are politically practical at present, due largely to a requirement under the EU treaty for unanimity in tax decisions and strong opposition from some member states to any extension of EU power in this area.

The Greens say that it is "crystal clear" that the requirement will make it "very hard to obtain practical results". The party is supporting a Danish proposal in the current intergovernmental conference negotiations to make it possible for green tax measures to be decided by the Council of Ministers by qualified majority voting.

Follow Up:
Green Group in the European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 4683.

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