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Parlamento Europeo - 13 giugno 1991
Economic and fiscal instruments of environment policy

The European Parliament,

- having regard to the motions for resolutions tabled by:

(a) Mr Collins and others on financial incentives for measures for environmental protection (B3-0470/89),

(b) Mrs Veil and others on the new Community approach to reconciling economic and ecological considerations in a market economy (B3-0601/89),

- having regard to the results of the hearing conducted by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection on 21 and 22 June 1990The papers and the preliminary and follow-up study are contained in Document 16 in the series 'Environmental issues, public health and consumer protection' published by the Directorate-General for Research of the European Parliament. on 'Economic and fiscal incentives to achieve environmental objectives',

- having regard to the conclusions of the European Council in Dublin of 25 and 26 June 1990, the Council of Environment Ministers of 29 and 30 October 1990 and the joint Council meeting on energy and the environment of 29 October 1990,

- having regard to the report by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection, the opinions of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy and the Committee on Legal Affairs and Citizens' Rights (A3-0130/91),


A. whereas despite the four EC environmental action plans adopted since 1973 and the 445 legislative instruments on the environment (196 directives, 40 regulations, 150 decisions, 94 recommendations and opinions: as at 10.12.1990) pollution of the environment has continued to increase, and whereas politicians have underestimated the environment-consciousness of ordinary people and their willingness to make a contribution,

B. whereas according to a report by the UNO environmental programme Published in London on 24.10.1990, given the expected rise in the temperature of the world climate, even if current emission levels of carbon dioxide, methane and CFCs were frozen, world food production in the next century could fall by 25% and whereas some 80% of all harmful substances come from the industrialized countries which account for only 20% of the world's population,

C. whereas the Brundtland report, drawn up under UN auspices, calls on the Commission to take all appropriate measures to bring about sustainable development,

D. whereas on the basis of the OECD's calculations the overall growth rates of the industrialized countries would need to be 3-5% lower to reduce pollution of the environment connected with creating the national product, and whereas the annual costs incurred in respect of pollution of the environment amount to an estimated DM 200 bn for the former Federal Republic of Germany alone,

E. having regard to the European internal market in 1993 requiring rules in all Member States designed to prevent distortion of competition (cf. Article 100a EEC Treaty),

F. having regard to the Community's environment policy, as laid down in Article 130r, which is based on the following principles:

- preventive action

- the polluter should pay

- environmental protection requirements should be a component of the Community's other policies, and whereas the economic and financial instruments can play an important part in achieving these objectives,

G. whereas Article 100a of the EEC Treaty calls on the Commission, in drawing up its environment proposals, to take as a base a high level of protection,

H. mindful of the need for economic agents (consumers and undertakings) to include in their economic calculations the social and ecological costs that result from their decisions, and to have incentives to behave so as to minimize these costs,

I. whereas, given the overriding importance today of pollution of the environment and the limited resources, the market economy - with capital as a central factor in production - should be transformed via the social market economy, in which priority is given to labour as a production factor, into an ecological market economy with the objective of sustainability where the central feature is not natural resources but growth,

J. aware that the disadvantage of the exclusive use of legislative instruments with a static effect (for example plant-related regulations, threshold values, injunctions and prohibitions) is that it is a response to environmental pollution granting businesses the right to pass on to the environment, at no cost to themselves, permitted volumes of harmful substances, whereas this does not stimulate the development of new technology and whereas parliaments and civil services are unable to cope because the legal instruments need to be continuously adapted to the state of the art,

K. aware that instruments with a dynamic effect on the market economy, in particular:

- (graduated) taxes, fees, levies, and subsidies,

- emission rights or licences,

- provisions for attachment,

- products liability,

- user advantages,

are a more flexible and efficient response to the challenges posed by pollution of the environment,

L. whereas the 'soft instruments' of environmental policy, such as an open information policy and the labelling of products (green label) etc. should not be under-estimated and can lead to the moral suasion of producers and consumers,

M. adhering to the principle that environmental taxes and levies must not increase the tax quota, but that there must be a shift in the tax burden, which should be neutral as regards the revenue raised, with the objective of securing an ecologically oriented restructuring of the tax system,

N. whereas although the proposed charging of environmental costs will have a considerable impact on the distribution of incomes, the use of flexible economic and fiscal instruments is socially compatible because it achieves given objectives at significantly lower cost than the traditional instruments,

O. whereas although the use of economic and fiscal instruments may result in additional tax revenue and whereas this runs counter to the objective of revenue neutrality, these effects can be offset in other areas through tax relief,

P. whereas improved protection of the environment will have a considerable positive effect on employment,

Q. whereas the consistent application of economic and fiscal instruments is reflected neither in national product accounting nor in the proportion of public spending on the environment,

R. aware that from the point of view of subsidiarity, economic and fiscal instruments of environmental policy should be shaped in such a way that there is a European framework allowing freedom of decision-making within specific margins at the politically subsidiary level,

S. aware that an efficient environmental policy involves not only the application of an instrument but also a broad spectrum of measures, involving the complementary use of administrative, economic and fiscal instruments,

Transport policy

T. whereas the transport sector is responsible for about one quarter of the total emission of CO2, and whereas a significant reduction in this emission cannot be achieved, even with the consistent use of the three-way catalyser, if the vehicle population continues to increase,

U. whereas, because of the failure to internalize all the environmental costs caused by the transport sector, that sector is one of the most highly subsidized policy areas, and whereas the continuing increase in the car population and the opening of internal frontiers in 1993 threaten to bring the entire transport system to a standstill,

V. whereas the introduction of unleaded petrol and catalyser technology in those Member States which have granted tax relief for them has had a positive effect, but whereas common, coordinated action at Community level would have a far greater effect in terms of protecting the environment,

W. whereas a consistent approach to the charging of the costs of pollution of the environment to the individual forms of transport would result in a considerable increase in the costs of transport by road and by air and whereas this would lead to a shift in the burden between roads, rail, water and air,

Energy policy

X. whereas the combustion of fossil fuels causes emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide which, individually or in combination with others, are a major contributor to the death of forests and the greenhouse effect,

Y. whereas fluctuations in energy prices, which are the chance result of political events, often distort environment-friendly consumption, thereby activating only a small part of the technical resources available for savings,

Z. whereas an increase in the price of energy will be an essential component in a strategy to secure the objective of energy savings; whereas only a targeted form of levies on environmental pollution will encourage non-polluting technology; whereas economic and fiscal instruments can bring about a realignment of energy policy to take the environment into account,

AA. whereas, although the possible direct tax on CO2 emissions is more equitable than a levy on fuels, being based on the contribution made to such emissions and the polluter pays principle, an in-depth study needs to be made of the possible social and economic repercussions of its implementation so as to prevent any widening of the already significant disparities between the various Member States and the contravention of the principle of economic and social cohesion enshrined in the Single Act,

Agricultural policy

AB. having regard to the increased productivity of the agricultural sector, which is due principally to the high level of mechanization and the massive increase in the use of energy, fertilizers and pesticides,

AC. whereas the increase in productivity has been accompanied by pollution of the environment (pollution of groundwater with nutrients, in particular nitrates from liquid manure and commercial fertilizers, soil erosion and soil compaction through the use of heavy agricultural machinery) and the loss of species, and whereas this policy has led to excess production of agricultural products, for the storage and disposal of which more than half of the EC's budget is required,

AD. aware that an environmentally-friendly agricultural policy must deliberately encourage extensification and at the same time respect the need for the maintenance and preservation of the natural landscape in order to resolve the conflict between agriculture and protection of the environment,

Waste policy

AE. whereas some 2.2 bn tonnes of waste are generated annually in the Community, and whereas waste dumping capacities are limited and non-harmful incineration cannot be guaranteed,

AF. whereas calculations show that, if the long-term costs of dumping and the external costs of incinerators are included, the costs of dumping domestic waste will increase 20-fold and the costs of special waste 100-fold,

AG. aware that a Community waste policy will be successful only if it is based on three principles: waste avoidance, reprocessing and environmentally-friendly disposal,

AH. whereas waste is an asset, the economic use of which, if recycled, depends on the prices of raw materials and energy,

AI. whereas there is a need for a new product philosophy whereby the manufacturer of a product is responsible for the entire life cycle of the product; product line analysis is an important criterion in this respect,

1. Calls on the Commission to submit to Parliament, without delay, a clear strategy for priority initiatives to be adopted in the area of environmental protection within the Community;

2. Calls on the Commission and Council

(a) to establish, as part of the work of the European Environmental Agency, a system of environmental reporting accessible to all to permit an analysis of the success of ordinary legal instruments and economic and fiscal instruments or a combination. The reports should be sufficiently detailed to permit an assessment of the effectiveness of regional and national measures;

(b) to establish

- to what extent tradeable emission licences can be an effective means of Community environmental policy,

- the geographical framework (local, regional, national, international) in which they can be used most effectively,

- the savings which can be achieved given the environmental objectives,

- the effects on distribution and competition which they will have;

- the type of pollution for which a scheme of tradeable emission licences would be acceptable and efficient;

- how to overcome and rectify shortcomings which may lead to speculative estimates being given by undertakings or groups monopolizing emission rights, how to identify the sources of pollution and whether emission levels can be monitored;

(c) to arrange for the phased introduction of the economic and fiscal instruments for reasons of social acceptability, since the 'polluter pays' principle will involve considerable additional costs for the consumer;

(d) to produce transitional solutions and compensation schemes for disadvantaged regions and socially disadvantaged groups of persons in the Community so as not to increase pressures threatening the Community's economic and social cohesion;

3. Insists that when the intended harmonization of value-added and consumer taxes takes place, the requirements of environment policy must be taken into account, in particular in fixing the rates of these taxes;

4. Calls on the Commission and the Council to consider the following measures in respect of transport policy:

(a) a phased increase in mineral oil tax in the Community until it reaches a level at which, along with road taxes, it covers all environmental costs caused by road transport. The additional revenue resulting from this increase in the tax yield should be used to expand transport by rail and waterways so that these forms of transport become competitive;

(b) steps to make the railway infrastructure, like roads, available on payment of a fee to the state. Restructuring railway policy on these lines would also allow more private initiative;

(c) with regard to commercial vehicles, the introduction of a Community-wide weight-distance tax which could be levied using existing methods in an unbureaucratic way with each state's contribution being exactly determined;

(d) with regard to air transport, in particular charging an environmental tax via the fuel tax while further developing the graduated scale of environmentally-based take-off and landing fees;

(e) with regard to private cars, permitting national increases in tax within European tax bands to reflect pollution of the environment;

(f) a restructuring of transport performance with the aid of economic and fiscal instruments with the aim of charging the individual forms of transport for pollution of the environment as a cost factor to a greater extent, with special reference to encouraging transport;

5. Calls on the Commission and Council to adopt the following energy policy measures:

(a) the introduction of a Community-wide standardized tax on fossil and nuclear energy based on primary energy consumption; the tax would be used to protect the atmosphere. Besides being an inducement to save energy, this measure would favour the use of environmentally-friendly, renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind, water and biomass and would help make them competitive; at the same time steps must be taken to ensure that no competitive advantages arise for nuclear energy;

(b) a linear or progressive restructuring of energy tariffs to reward energy savings, rather than a digressive approach to reward additional consumption;

(c) augmentation in the long term of the tax on protection of the atmosphere through a levy on harmful substances and waste heat actually emitted during the generation and consumption of energy;

(d) an environmentally-based restructuring of energy consumption, with charging for environmental pollution giving priority to encouraging energy savings and the use of renewable energies;

6. Calls on the Commission and the Council to take the following measures in agriculture :

(a) specific proposals for the introduction of a tax on synthetically-produced nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides, to charge for pollution of air, water and soil caused by the use of these products;

(b) performance-related financial rewards for external benefits generated by agriculture through preservation of the countryside and biotopes, reafforestation etc.;

(c)bringing agricultural production more in line with environmental objectives, not least so that the consumer has residue-free, healthy food;

7. Calls on the Commission and the Council to take the following waste policy measures :

(a) the phased introduction of a dumping levy with a control effect; but immediate cost-covering dumping fees;

(b) the Community-wide introduction of a deposit scheme to encourage recycling for products which pollute the environment;

(c) the clear distinction between waste and secondary raw materials so as to encourage recycling and rationalize the use of resources;

(d) the EC-wide introduction of compulsory recovery for products for products that lend themselves to recycling or the disposal of which poses special problems;

(e) the EC-wide introduction of a tax on waste disposal to curb the creation of waste;

(f) the introduction of a general liability scheme, independent of fault, for waste with compulsory insurance;

(g) greater use of product line analyses to encourage an environmentally-based product philosophy with recycling to save raw materials;

8. Calls on the Member States to implement a water pricing policy to encourage consumers to conserve water resources and reduce sewage;

9. Advocates a Community policy to reduce, by means of legislation and tax measures emissions of chemicals which are harmful to the environment;

10. Calls on the Commission and the Council to take the following measures in tourism policy:

(a) all costs of pollution to the environment caused by tourism, with particular regard to waste water treatment, the cleaning of picnic sites, woods and beaches etc., should be charged to the polluter;

(b) the introduction of local authority charges for hotels, motels, holiday homes and camp sites etc., to cover the merely seasonal use of local government facilities;

(c) a satisfactory system of charging for the external costs of transport, in particular flight and landing fees and port fees;

(d) prior mandatory environmental impact assessments of investments for tourism infrastructures, with private or Community funds only for investments which have shown that they are not environmentally damaging;

11. Calls on the Commission to review its legislation relating to national aid to undertakings in order that the latter may contribute as a matter of priority to the ecological reconversion of production structures (agriculture, industry, services);

12. Stresses that, overall, environmental protection is not a particularly or specifically Community problem and that every policy in this area must therefore:

- pursue tough and consistent measures at the level of the competent international organization with a view to concluding agreements on environmental protection with third countries,

- continually ensure that the environmental policies of our trade partners do not give them competitive advantages; to this end, the problem of 'dumping' and abusing the environment should be considered within the framework of GATT;

13. Calls on the Commission to make every possible effort, having considered the social, regional, industrial and environmental impact of the above measures, to coordinate at international level the simultaneous introduction of fiscal, economic and regulatory incentives for the protection of the environment; in the event of failure, calls on the Commission to take all necessary steps to ensure that European undertakings are not penalized by ecological taxes that their non-Community competitors do not have to pay;

14. Calls on the Commission, with due regard for the principle of subsidiarity referred to in recital R:

(a) to submit, by 31 December 1991, a programme for implementing the recommendations contained in this opinion and in the report by the Task Force on the environment and the single internal market;

(b) to arrange for the first stages of that programme to be implemented by 1992;

(c) to define, in consultation with the European Parliament, the legal basis to be used before taking any measure of Community interest;

(d) to refer, wherever possible, to Article 100a of the Treaty for the purposes of implementing initiatives and mobilizing international resources;

(e) to submit, in compliance with Article 130r of the Treaty, an environmental impact form for all measures falling within the scope of other Community policies;

15. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission and the Council and the national environmental ministries of the EC.

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