The EU is proud to claim a leading global role in the fight to protect the environment. In past few weeks alone, the European Commission adopted new proposals to improve the environmental efficiency of new and renovated buildings; and it approved plans to ensure that, by 2030, 70% of municipal waste and 80% of packaging waste is recycled. Around the same time, EU energy ministers agreed on a 7% limit on the use of food-based biofuels in transport.
The question is, who will pay for all the efforts to make Europe greener? The industry lobby group BusinessEurope repeatedly complains the stream of new EU rules adds to costs and hamstrings European companies struggling to compete with rivals from less-green places likes China and United States. Competitiveness has to be built-in to green legislation, it says.
Is Europe’s industry paying too high a price for protecting the planet? Should companies be given a break at a time when Europe should be focused on boosting business and creating jobs?
Europe’s Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik sees no contradiction. Moving to a greener economy will give Europe a competitive edge over lagging competitors and create new green jobs, he says.
Contributor John agreed in a recent comment:
“The EU must go forward and be in the vanguard for a green, sustainable eco-friendly economy … [it] can be a leader in green technology, if all countries come together and join forces for a greener Europe.”
But somebody will have to pick up the tab, at least in the short term. Tanja from Denmark put her finger on the dilemma when she asked: who should pay the bill for a better environment?
We put her question to Gabriele Zimmer, a German MEP who sits with the Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left. What did she think?
Does the polluter pay principle put too much pressure on struggling European industry? We also asked German Green MEP Reinhard Bütifkofer to answer Tanja’s question:
“Well that is easy. We should implement the polluter-pays principle: those who pollute, they should pay. So we should internalize external costs into the price of goods and services, which means we should not force future generations or people that are adversely impacted by environmental degradation to pay – we should make those that cause the impact pay the bill.”
Give us your opinion. Is it only right that industry pays to clean up the environment? Can Europe afford to take a green lead? Can it afford not to? Send us your questions and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions!