German NGOs Call for More Eco-Taxes


from Ends Environment Daily, April 28, 1998

Three German environmental groups yesterday called for more taxes to be placed on energy and fuel. In a book intended to spark a national debate on environmental taxation in the run-up to German federal elections, the groups accused politicians of creating a myth that Germany was a European leader in the field of ecological taxation as an excuse for inaction.

Publication of the book follows a position paper released last December and forms part of a campaign for an ecological tax reform - shifting taxes from labour to pollution - being led by environmental group Deutsche Naturschutzring (DNR). The groups propose a yearly 7% increase in taxes on all energy products except renewables, with slower increases allowed for energy-intensive industries. They also want to raise the existing motor fuel tax, causing petrol prices to increase DM3 (Ecu1.5) from the current DM1.60 to DM4.60 over the same period. The revenue would be used to cut social security contributions for employers in an effort to combat Germany's high unemployment rates.

The proposal is very similar to the Green Party's first election manifesto, which called for petrol prices of DM5.00 within 10 years. The party was quickly forced to downplay its idea following serious losses in local elections and disputes with its prospective coalition partner the social democrats (SPD).

The other main political parties, the ruling Christian democrat (CDU) - Christian socialist (CSU) coalition and the liberals (FDP) have declared their support for more energy and fuel taxes on a European level, but say that Germany cannot afford to go it alone, as the Greens are proposing. In an interview with the newspaper Das Bild earlier this month, Chancellor Helmut Kohl declared that higher energy and fuel taxes in Germany were "out of the question" unless mirrored by similar initiatives in other European countries.

According to Kai Schlegelmilch of the Wuppertal Institute - a leading centre of research on ecological taxation - the claim "made by many politicians" that Germany is a European leader in ecological taxes is a "false argument". A study undertaken last year by the Wuppertal Institute for the European Parliament showed that Germany's record on energy related and mineral oil taxes was average amongst EU member states. Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands emerged with the most impressive ecological tax systems, followed by Finland and Belgium. "Germany has to catch up with the rest of Europe" added Mr Schlegelmilch.

The environmentalists are hopeful that their book will affect popular opinion. "I see good chances that the debate will turn around and the Greens will gain more votes" said Mr Schlegelmilch.

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