environmental costs

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:

Reinhard Butikofer“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!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Marcel Leitner

32 comments Post a commentComment


  1. catherine benning

    Politicians, their family and friends.

    • proactive

      ….yes, that was quite short & sweet! The bit longer version is :

      Blah, blah, Zimmer & GREEN MEP Reinhard Bütifkofer and his “that’s easy” remark- makes one see not green but red! – it is not that simple but rather complex Mr. & Mrs. GREEN!

      The “polluter pay principle” is a happy illusion! Finally- the end user- all of us, the 500 million in Europe or all 8 billion, as relentless consumers big or small- will pay for anything & everything on this earth! Be it with sickness, death, inconvenience, loss in quality of life, taxes, penalties, higher production costs which are passed on through higher prices & services! And than the never ending cycle begins again until human sapiens sapiens are gone!

      Unequal laws & the many rouge economies like US/China & others dictate, that those who want a greener environment at home quicker, unfortunately have to pay for it or wait for the environmental terrorists to adopt equal conditions.

      Effective anti pollution laws must jail CEO’s, the whole board of Directors in companies & liquidate their personal assets if found guilty. Not having effective laws, make all lawmakers liable too!

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_environmental_law

  2. Ntinos Gotzis

    You care about environment? Why Syria chemical weapons are destroyed in the sea near Crete? Why EU demand, forces members to sellout its virgin beaches?

  3. Andreas Agathokleous

    Protecting the environment and the planet should not be a question of ”high” or ”low” price. It is our duty to do so. The EU fighting together with a few other countries is not a solution though. The international community should realise this and cooperate in saving the planet.

  4. Ioannis Koutoudis

    Prisoner’s dillema: If both are not smart at the same time, then the stupid-one is smarter than the smart-one, because he ends paying the bill.

    If both are stupid? Then they are just stupid.

  5. ironworker

    Who should pay the bill for a cleaner environment?

    That’s a no brainer, corporations. Exactly the ones who profit high volume production.

  6. Inês Beato

    Individuals and the industry should pay a pollution tax proportional to the amount of pollution we make and resources we waste and the money should be used for environment protection and conservation effort. Unfortunately people only understand the value of money :/

  7. Rudi Spoljarec

    (non)Human beeings have increased bussiness on a high level , the result is huge pollution . Taxes won’t help anything . Now the inventors and anti-corporative bussiness should develop another bussiness : to clean the planet . An increase of the global gross national product will happen at the same time as the protection of planet. Shall the gasoline and corporative industry allow it ??? Not yet , not yet !!!! . Don’t let it be too late !!!!!!

  8. Yannick Cornet

    Because the richest pollute most, the answer is a sure no. But the US and Canada certainly got away with paying too little.

  9. Kaled Al-frzai

    Work on hemp legalisation,it would solve the “cutting wood for paper issue”,the plastic problem,the construction materials,farmacy and part of the clothing industry.While hemp is illegal,which is part of the frikin enviorment,you can’t say you are fighting for the enviorment

  10. Migeru

    Of course Europe can afford the cost of a greener economy, like any monetarily sovereign entity. All it needs is political will and ECB monetization of the monetary cost. Rentiers and dirty technology incumbents will scream bloody murder, but why should we care about them?

  11. Jimmy Flindt

    The ‘green economy’ can encourage jobs and innovation – study

    “We will need to rely heavily on Europe’s inventiveness. This is not just about new inventions – encouraging the uptake and diffusion of new green technologies may be even more important.”
    Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director

    Europe can create jobs and encourage innovation by using resources much more efficiently, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) which describes a range of policies with proven environmental and economic benefits.
    ‘Resource-efficient green economy and EU policies’ considers how European economies can drive more efficient material resource use as part of the transition towards a ‘green economy’, a recently stated aim of the EU.
    While many environmental trends are gradually improving, the EU needs a more fundamental, systemic re-orientation of its economy if is to meet some of its long-term environmental objectives, the report states. For example, the proposed EU target to cut greenhouse gases by 80-95 % of 1990 levels by 2050 will not be possible by solely relying on incremental efficiency gains.
    Read more…

    http://www.eea.europa.eu/media/newsreleases/the-2018green-economy2019-can-encourage

  12. Kevin

    In the end we the people will pay weather it is through higher prices if we make the corporations pay or higher taxes if we leave it to governments and their green jobs creation schemes . A serious attempt to bring down the amount of packaging used would be helpful.
    The EU greenhouse targets are a nonsense , they have it seems accepted a version of the ‘debate’ that is far from over . How can you for example reduce greenhouse gases by 80% when 80% of greenhouse gases is water vapour ? If they mean carbon which is a minor greenhouse gas they should adjust the numbers to reflect that . Looking at the new numbers (maybe 2-5 %) we can then decide if reducing greenhouse gas in Europe is worth all the effort when emerging industrial nations are attempting to turn polluting the planet into an Olympic sport .
    In short there is little we can do , would anyone pay for something that does nothing ? I would rather have my bins emptied every week .

  13. Paul X

    This is only one planet, Europe can be as green as it wants but what is the point when China, US and South America continue to pollute with gay abandon? Pollution wont stop at Europe’s borders with the rest of the world

    All this green talk is just so the EU can take the moral high ground and proudly boast how wonderfully considerate we are for the planet, but as long as the rest of the world doesn’t care less then no matter what the EU does the planet is still dying and all they are currently achieving is making Europe’s businesses less competitive

    • crayven

      Nonsense. WE buy their junk. If we tax them NOW ( before they build a demand internally and become independent of us ) we can destroy their polluting industry.
      But the more we wait the LESS impact we will have.

      the EU must act NOW!

  14. crayven

    “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?”

    YOU’RE HAVING A LAUGH !
    “Too high a price” ? Are you seriously daring to ask such a question after we, the people, BAILED these bastards out and we are STILL subsidizing big industries at our expense and at their profit?

    They should be bled DRY !
    Tariffs from SLAVE countries that do not give a rat’s arse about the environment like China or India should be raised to 100%.
    NOTHING should be able to compete with EU made stuff…UNLESS it is made by an EU standards approved workforce:
    high salaries, pensions, paid vacation, POLLUTION reduction.

    These countries think they have discovered the holy grail of competition by dumping their ENVIRONMENTAL: cost on ALL OF US and we are supposed to PAY for it ?
    I think not!

    Stop allowing goods made by slaves to enter the EU or tax them so they become extremely uncompetitive.
    Punish polluters at home with JAIL time and bankruptcy inducing fines, not “lol 100,000 euros, keep the change”.
    BOOST and FUND green energy parks construction and renewables projects.

    Did you hear about the VERTICAL FARMING?
    Singapore has them, why not we ?
    Why are we lagging in high-tech and instead trying to copy that HELL HOLE called America?

    Why are we following in the footstep of STUPIDITY incarnate!?

    • Paul X

      I think it’s you who is having a laugh?

      So your answer is to increase taxes and make everything more expensive?

      Tell your suggestion to the millions of people who are already struggling to make ends meet and see what they think

      I can only assume you live at the end of a rainbow with an endless pot of gold, most people in the real world who have to earn their money cannot afford the luxuary of paying to clean up other peoples pollution

  15. Michalis Pillos

    US (appears to care but) does not care! China does not care! Russia does not care! Brazil does not care! India (no comments) Japan.. a bit! It sucks but somebody is got to do it! … Thats Europe! #climate #environment

  16. Marcel

    These corporations, once confronted with ‘pollution tax’ or whatever will do what they always do: make the products more expensive ie transferring the cost to the consumer.

    So what these people want is the prices of our products increasing. Socalled ‘green’ politicians must be the stupidest people on the planet if they think for one second the costs won’t be furthered onto the consumer. Or maybe its what they want.

    Notice that many of these former ‘communist’ parties in the western world started calling themselves ‘green’ after 1990. No wonder all they ever want is government involvement in everything.

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