Sunday, December 7, 2008
Europe Moves to Adopt Green Tax Cuts
Last week, in a dramatic about face and historic first, the European Commission, which drafts legislation for the EU, embraced green tax cuts as part of its European Economic Recovery Plan. The heretofore non-existent policy had been proposed only in just the last year by prominent politicians from both the left and the right, notably British PM Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The Commission proposes "reduced VAT rates for green products and services, aimed at improving in particular energy efficiency in buildings," and indicates it will "urgently draw up measures for other products which offer very high potential for energy savings such as televisions, domestic lighting, refrigerators and freezers, washing machines, boilers and air-conditioners." The plan also calls for "Member States to provide further incentives to consumers to stimulate demand for environmentally-friendly products." In particular, "Member States should [reduce] property tax for energy-performing buildings" and also reduce taxes for "lower emission cars."
This same green tax cut proposal was first put forward by center-left British Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown just a little over a year ago, and quickly garnered the support of center-right French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Brown argued strongly that "Lower taxes can make a big difference to whether people buy environmentally friendly goods." However, the European Commission quickly shot it down just last March. Since then, however, Sarkozy has become President of the European Union (with an ambitious green agenda) and the world economy has entered its worst crisis in decades. The EU is now willing to consider all means of economic stimulus at its disposal, and green tax cuts are now, for the first time ever, part of that mix.
The speed with which this proposal has gone from introduction to acceptance at the highest levels of the European government, in just about one year, is remarkable. While clearly the EC could be bolder and go even further with this concept, such as VAT (and other) tax reductions directly for ultra-high-mileage vehicles and green energy from renewable sources, it is likely that this is just the start, and there is more to come. That it has been championed by politicians from both the left and right is also noteworthy. Indeed it begs the question, if the European left and right can so quickly agree on the value of this policy, particularly as one of the few green policies that doubles as an aid to economic recovery, why isn't it even on the radar of their American counterparts?
If anyone has any ideas as to why, I'm all ears...