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Can Polluter Pays policies be progressive?

AUTHORS: Tim Gore (IEEP), Xaquín García-Muros (BC3), Alejandro Rodríguez-Zúñiga (BC3), Eva Alonso Epelde (BC3), Mikel González-Eguino (BC3)

Modelling of the distributional impacts of the proposed Energy Taxation Directive reform and Emissions Trading Scheme extension shows these polluter pays policies can help fight inequality and the climate crisis.

Two politically sensitive reforms

The proposed Energy Taxation Directive (ETD) reform and extension of the Emissions Trading Scheme to buildings and road transport (ETS2) are two of the most politically sensitive elements of the European Commission’s Fit for 55 legislative package.

On one hand, the proposals would significantly expand the application of the polluter pays principle across the EU, eliminating swathes of fossil fuel subsidies and capping emissions in two laggard sectors in the energy transition. But on the other hand, given that energy costs constitute a higher share of expenditure of lower-income households, who are less able to change consumption behaviour in response to higher prices, many stakeholders are concerned that the proposals risk entrenching inequality.

New evidence of progressive distributional impacts

We provide new evidence from a microsimulation model developed by the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3) with IEEP and five other partners in the Think Sustainable Europe (TSE) network to assess the direct, overnight distributional impacts of both measures on households. We show that if carefully designed – including well-directed revenue-recycling, and alongside complementary policy measures – the proposals can achieve clearly progressive impacts. In short, they could serve as a tool to fight both inequality and the climate crisis.

You can also have a look at the national reports by Think Sustainable Europe members who are partners in this project:

BC3 (Spain)

Ecologic Institute (Germany)

Wise Europa (Poland)

AMO (Czech Republic)

IDDRI (France)

Energia Klub (Hungary)

Files to download

WiseEuropa Fit for 55 Executive Summary
Can polluter pays policies in buildings and transport be progressive (IEEP 2022)

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