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Monday, November 23, 2009

Environment in Europe, November 2009 - carbon tax is coming

Today:
  1. Barroso's green industrial agenda fails to impress
  2. EU countries reject ban on bluefin tuna
  3. Sarkozy renews pressure for CO2 border tax
  4. Commission says farmers need help to cut carbon
  5. EU moves to tackle carbon trading fraud
Quote of the day: I really fail to understand the idea behind VAT - ok, let's all fill the government's coffers, I don't mind. But why business can recover VAT? What's the point of the business not paying the whole VAT, while I should pay the whole thing and never recover it? This is one of the most disgusting taxes. Because you pay it on EVERYTHING. And you pay it EVERYWHERE. And while some people are able to recover what they paid (or even to steal it) the decent citizens can only pay.

Barroso's green industrial agenda fails to impress

7 September 2009

The EU will embark on a radical decarbonisation of its transport and electricity sectors to retain leadership on climate change in the run-up to 2020, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said as he outlined the EU executive's priorities for the next five years. But environmentalists remain sceptical.

In particular, he said more efforts were needed "towards decarbonising our electricity supply and the transport sector – all transport, including maritime transport and aviation, as well as the development of clean and electric cars".

Moreover, the former Portuguese prime minister pledged to launch "a major initiative" to assess each Community policy in light of climate change, making the changes necessary to help the EU to slash emissions and adapt to climate change.

In the context of the current recession, the Commission should concentrate on designing a favourable regulatory environment to foster the uptake of low-carbon technologies by European businesses, particularly SMEs, Barroso said. A modernised industrial base using environmentally-friendly technologies and benefiting from energy-efficiency improvements would give the EU first-mover advantages and provide more jobs, he argued.

Barroso identified a new European supergrid for electricity and gas as one of the "next great European projects" to meet growing energy demand in a sustainable way. In addition, he highlighted the current Commission's leadership in launching the Nabucco pipeline project as well as progress towards Baltic interconnectors. source

My comment:I'm sorry, what Commission's leadership in Nabucco?! Where? The leadership of Nabucco is and always was in the hands of USA. I don't think this was ever an European project, since half of the member states are against it! Anyway, read the complete article for some good rhetoric, as for me, I believe only actions. And those actions are still missing. I only hope to see the electricity and gas supergrids starting soon, because they really are the next BIG thing!


EU countries reject ban on bluefin tuna

22 September 2009
EU member states yesterday (21 September) failed to support proposals aimed at temporarily banning international trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna in order to preserve the species, as a result of opposition from Spain, Malta, Italy, France, Greece and Cyprus. The bloc's environment ministers will have their final say by the end of the year.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas regretted the decision, while Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg said it was now up to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) "to assume its full responsibility to ensure the recovery of bluefin tuna".

EU member states can still review their position before the Convention meets in March 2010, when the final decision will be taken.

Monaco is the first country in the world to have stopped the sale of bluefin tuna and is sponsoring the proposed ban on the species. Several other European states, including the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and northern countries, have declared their support for such a ban and have been encouraged by lobbying from environmental groups.

Temporary bans have been imposed by the Commission before, in 2007 and 2008, when it stated there was a need to protect tuna as a "fragile resource" following "substantial overfishing by the EU fleet in 2007". source

My comment: I don't understand this, the practice shows that once under a ban, the tuna shoals are very quick to recover and thus, such ban would obviously be only temporary, until the bluefin tuna has recovered! Thus the producers (well, the fishers) has the greatest interest of preserving the resources. This is an absolute nonsense. Not to mention how irresponsible it is.

Sarkozy renews pressure for CO2 border tax

14 September 2009

French President Nicolas Sarkozy repeated calls to impose a European tax on goods imported from countries with less stringent environmental laws as he outlined plans for a new carbon tax on French households and industries last week (10 September).

In a speech, Sarkozy said he would put his weight behind convincing his European colleagues that the EU needs a carbon tax at its borders to safeguard the competitiveness of its industry.

The president said that he would not accept a system where European countries impose constraints on their industries for climate protection while allowing imports to continue from countries that do not respect the same rules.

Sarkozy has repeatedly called for such a border adjustment mechanism since negotiations over the EU's climate and energy package, agreed last December.

But Sarkozy will have a hard time convincing the 27-member bloc that border tariffs are the way to fend off unfair competition resulting from the EU's progressive climate policies. Sweden, which currently holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency, has warned that protective measures would block any progress towards a new global climate treaty in Copenhagen in December .

But Sarkozy claims his call is not about protectionism but fair competition. He said he was encouraged by the US, where the House of Representatives included a provision for a border carbon tariff in its draft climate bill.

Moreover, he pointed to a WTO report which said that a carbon tax at the EU's borders would be allowed under international trade rules if member states put in place national carbon tax plans.

Sarkozy said border carbon tariffs would complement the French carbon tax well. Despite much political controversy, the president is pushing forward with his plan to levy a new tax on oil, gas and coal consumption by households and businesses.

The president announced that the tax would be set at €17 per tonne of carbon emissions from next year, rising gradually. The new tax would add 4.5 cents to the price of a litre of diesel, four cents to a litre of petrol and around 0.4 cents to a KWh of gas.

source

My comment: I also don't think that this is protectionism - after all, if we commit to decrease our emission, we must be sure we'll get the same from the other countries. If they are not willing to contribute to the common goal, then we have to have a way to force them to do it. After all, we already have done this with the energy saving light bulbs produced in China. So, nothing new on the horizon. WTO also agree we have the right to do it (which is kind of suspicious, right?). So, I support Nicolas in this. As for the taxes in France, I find them somewhat high, but I guess it's not that high for them. And it's great that they excluded electricity - this is very positive sign for nuclear energy.

Commission says farmers need help to cut carbon

16 September 2009

European farmers must slash agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% by 2020, primarily by producing biomass and storing carbon in the soil, but they risk ruin without outside help, EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said yesterday (15 September).

European agriculture emissions have already fallen by 20% since 1990 due in part to there being fewer cattle and also to better technology and farm management.

But the heat is on to find other ways to reduce emissions, ahead of a major global climate summit in Copenhagen in December and to meet tough goals already set for the next decade.

Mariann Fischer Boel, the EU agriculture commissioner, said on Tuesday (15 September) that the farm sector should cut emissions of methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.

Farmers can also fight emissions by supplying more biomass to produce energy and renewable materials, she said.

Fischer Boel said Europe's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Health Checkexternal and Economic Recovery Packageexternal had helped set aside more money for farmers to fight climate change.

But she said Europe would "almost certainly" have to make changes to the CAP, mainly after 2013, to give farmers much-needed support to reduce emissions. source

My comment: Everything sounds great, I just hope that this won't be just one more source of income for poor farmers (and one more drain for taxpayers). Because we subsidize them kind of too much these days. It seems that being a farmer in some regions of Europe is a very good idea, while in others, it's pure nightmare. Funnily enough I kind of want to be a farmer one day. Not because of the money, but simply for the pleasure of producing your own food. That's nice. Anyway, I hope this initiative can lead to better quality of the food we eat, because a big part of the pollution comes from fertilizers and hormones, antibiotics and so on. If we can limit them without hurting the production too much, that would be nice!

EU moves to tackle carbon trading fraud

1 October 2009

The European Commission has presented measures to fight VAT fraud in carbon permits to regain the credibility of its emissions trading scheme ahead of crunch climate talks in December.

The EU executive proposed on 29 September an express solution to stop "carousel fraud," which has seen criminals steal billions from EU governments by means of VAT receipts for items like mobile phones and computer chips. These criminals have recently moved to the EU carbon market (see EurActiv LinksDossier ).

In a simple case, known as 'the missing trader' fraud, a trader buys carbon credits in one member state without having to pay VAT and then sells them in another country, charging VAT. Afterwards the importer disappears instead of paying VAT to the government.

The Commission proposes to combat this by temporarily applying a "reverse charge mechanism" to greenhouse gas emission allowances, as well as other "particularly fraud sensitive goods": computer chips, mobile phones, precious metals and perfumes.

Under the mechanism, the supplier does not charge VAT. Instead, the customer becomes liable for paying the tax, and declares and deducts it at the same time without effecting payment to the treasury. This removes the opportunity to commit fraud as carbon traders do not exchange VAT every time they sell carbon credits.

During the summer, several member states already took action against suspected fraud cases in carbon trading.

The Dutch government opted for the approach now proposed by the Commission. France exempted emissions allowances from VAT completely, while the UK set the rate at zero.

The Commission is now proposing a harmonised EU response to the problem. Applying the mechanism would nevertheless remain optional for member states.

The proposed measure is only temporary, and the Commission regards it as an opportunity to assess the usefulness of a sector-targeted application of reverse charging. source
My comment: I really fail to understand the idea behind VAT - ok, let's all fill the government's coffers, I don't mind. But why business can recover VAT? What's the point of the business not paying the whole VAT, while I should pay the whole thing and never recover it? This is one of the most disgusting taxes. Because you pay it on EVERYTHING. And you pay it EVERYWHERE. And while some people are able to recover what they paid (or even to steal it) the decent citizens can only pay. If you ask me, that should be the only tax we pay, apart from health and pension insurances and road taxes. I mean seriously, the country earns so much out of it, and the taxes on the fuels, why should they take parts of the salaries too? And note - I'm in no way libertarian. I just prefer to pay once, trough higher VAT, than to have to fill forms, to prove my income and so on. After all, if I have more money, I'll spend more, thus paying more trough VAT. And if the business doesn't have the right to recover VAT, then my payment will go directly in to the coffer. And it would be fair for everyone.
As for VAT fraud trough emissions I think that emissions should be exempted from VAT until the scheme becomes financially viable and also, until we have common VAT for the whole EU. Otherwise, you simply cannot stop frauds.

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