The Slovenia Times

A Taxing Matter



While the existence of global warming may still be a matter of vociferous scientific debate, a legislative climate change is evident for all to see. In countries across the world, laws are being passed with the express intent of reducing the carbon dioxide emissions many believe are permanently damaging our planet. Sometimes the move is at least in part a pragmatic one - a desire to reduce dependence on foreign oil, so increasing economic and political stability. Whatever the reason, one of the most active organisations in implementing legislative change has been the European Union (EU).

A tough task

The EU's initiatives are, of course, far from the only international efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Most notably, 193 nations gathered in Copenhagen last December with the express aim of coming to an agreement on combatting climate change and, more specifically, greenhouse gasses. It was not an entirely successful effort. The ultimate product may have been an agreement to curtail carbon emissions but it ultimately served more as a draft than a proper resolution - it isn't legally binding and nor does it set specific goals for specific nations.

Part of the problem at Copenhagen was the sheer number of countries involved in drafting an agreement. Getting 193 countries, each with different economic wealth and carbon footprints, was always going to be a tough mission. No such problem exists for the European Union. The number of actors is much smaller, all have every reason to cooperate for a more prosperous future, and any legislation is legally binding.

Taking charge

As a result, many are arguing that the EU should now take the lead in pushing for climate change. It is a role the organisation seems willing to take up - with its initiative Europe 2020, it has brought in a series of new "green" targets and taxes for its member countries. As the name suggests, EU members have to lower carbon emissions by a minimum of 20 percent and derive a minimum of 20 percent of their energy needs from renewable sources by the year 2020. Targets are adjusted slightly from country to country. Slovenia currently derives between 15 and 16 percent of its energy needs from sustainable sources - the EU has asked that this should increase to 25 percent by 2020.

Individual member states which fail to meet the targets set for them will be required to buy the surplus renewable energy production, creating an effective tax incentive to invest in local green energy production.

Emissions tax

This is not the only way in which the EU is using taxes to encourage environmentally friendly behaviour. It has also introduced changes to motor vehicle tax - the less fuel efficient the vehicle, the higher the tax needed to register it for use on the road.

In Slovenia, the impact of this change has been mixed. In almost all instances, the prices of cars have increased. What decreases there have been are small. The change also fails to address the issue of older, far more polluting vehicles. Other countries have introduced scrappage incentives, allowing owners of older vehicles to trade them in for a discount on a new vehicle. While certain car manufacturers selling in Slovenia have taken part in similar schemes, the initiatives were short-lived and their effectiveness limited by a failure to tie them to fuel efficiency or carbon taxing.

Nonetheless, most praise the impact the EU's targets and taxes are having on carbon dioxide emissions in its member countries. There is a recognition the initiatives are not perfect - for instance, they fail to address emissions from the meat industry which accounts for more emissions than all of transportation combined. But with the limited success of the Copenhagen conference, the EU remains the most active international organisation in combatting climate change - and arguably the one best placed to continue leading that fight in the future.

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