Understanding environmental taxation

16-01-2020

Environmental taxation is one way of encouraging a shift towards more eco-friendly choices; employed in combination with the other instruments available, it can help bring about the adjustments required to tackle the environmental and climate challenges facing us today. The aim of environmental taxation, in principle, is to factor environmental damage, or negative externalities, into prices in order to steer production and consumption choices in a more eco-friendly direction. Environmental taxation can potentially address all aspects of environmental protection and conservation. The fight against climate change, pollution – especially air and water pollution – and pressure on the environment, in particular from resource consumption and biodiversity loss, as well as contributory factors, such as gas emissions and the use of potentially harmful substances, can be the subject of tax measures. These are general or sectoral measures which are applied in different ways by individual states and their regional and local authorities. In the European Union, environmental policy and tax policy determine the scope for action of Member States and the Union. Existing environmental taxation measures account for a modest share of national tax revenue. Although the environmental aims are generally acknowledged as valid, when environmental taxation measures are implemented a range of factors must be taken into account, in particular competitiveness and fairness, to ensure that environmental taxation is sufficiently transparent to gain acceptance and so become an effective instrument in the transition that society now so urgently needs.

Environmental taxation is one way of encouraging a shift towards more eco-friendly choices; employed in combination with the other instruments available, it can help bring about the adjustments required to tackle the environmental and climate challenges facing us today. The aim of environmental taxation, in principle, is to factor environmental damage, or negative externalities, into prices in order to steer production and consumption choices in a more eco-friendly direction. Environmental taxation can potentially address all aspects of environmental protection and conservation. The fight against climate change, pollution – especially air and water pollution – and pressure on the environment, in particular from resource consumption and biodiversity loss, as well as contributory factors, such as gas emissions and the use of potentially harmful substances, can be the subject of tax measures. These are general or sectoral measures which are applied in different ways by individual states and their regional and local authorities. In the European Union, environmental policy and tax policy determine the scope for action of Member States and the Union. Existing environmental taxation measures account for a modest share of national tax revenue. Although the environmental aims are generally acknowledged as valid, when environmental taxation measures are implemented a range of factors must be taken into account, in particular competitiveness and fairness, to ensure that environmental taxation is sufficiently transparent to gain acceptance and so become an effective instrument in the transition that society now so urgently needs.