Policy options for carbon taxation in the EU
Documents de travail OFCE
Documents de travail OFCE : 2010-10
Even though the EU clearly leads the global fight against climate change and despite the additional reduction in emissions due to the global crisis and European recession, the ambitious objectives flagged in the “20-20-20 by 2020” strategy and ‘climate-energy package’ are probably out of reach if a more resolute and consistent policy of carbon taxation is not rapidly put in place. First, the EU is not as ‘virtuous’ as it may seem, and shows signs of a ‘fatigue’ in mitigating climate change; this is explained by the weak incentive structure of current climate institutions, due to both narrow coverage and insufficient stringency of the European ‘Emission Trading Scheme’ (ETS) – the European ‘carbon market’–, and to excessive reliance on emission standards combined with weak energy taxation. Fears of loosing competitiveness are a major argument against imposing a higher carbon price on industries, feeding tax competition both within the EU and vis-à-vis the rest of the world. Though not fully satisfactory, the Commission’s recent proposal (a revision of the 2003 energy taxation directive introducing floors on national excises based on carbon content) would help solving the intra-EU conundrum. Alternatively, an extension of the EU ETS to households and the transport sector via the ‘upstream’ inclusion of fossil fuel dealers would also be a feasible solution. In order to answer the ‘carbon leakage’ argument and to send appropriate price signals to European consumers on extra-EU imports, a border adjustment mechanism – carbon levy or inclusion of importers into the EU ETS – is also necessary. Ultimately though, in order to make sure that economic agents face a uniform carbon price, a generalized carbon tax, in the form of a European ‘Carbon Added Tax’ (ECAT), would be the most effective instrument in the fight against climate change, as well as the pillar of a thorough tax reform inducing the ‘decarbonisation shift’ of the European economy.