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Competitiveness and Exemptions From Environmental Taxes in Europe


  • Paul Ekins


  • Stefan Speck


A number of European countries have introduced a variety of environmental taxes. A common characteristic of their implementation is the inclusion of exemptions and tax relief, in particular for (some sectors of) manufacturing industry. This paper analyses the pattern and motivation of exemptions as they have developed in Western European countries, making clear the difference between the nominal and effective tax rates once the exemptions have been taken into account. The principal motivation for exemptions relates to concern about competitiveness. While particular environmentally-intensive sectors may have some grounds for concern, even these might be able to achieve cost-effective environmental improvements, such that their competitive position is not over-disadvantaged, while for an economy structured like the UK's, an environmental tax plus rebate scheme, sometimes called an ecological tax reform, would be likely to yield benefits in terms of competitiveness. The exemptions usually run counter to the environmental economic logic of using environmental taxes to internalise social costs and give economic signals that are based on the full costs of production, and they are likely to increase the costs of achieving a given level of emission reduction. With little justification for them also on the grounds of competitiveness, it would therefore be undesirable on both economic and environmental grounds for them to remain a feature of the implementation of environmental taxes in the future. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Ekins & Stefan Speck, 1999. "Competitiveness and Exemptions From Environmental Taxes in Europe," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 13(4), pages 369-396, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:enreec:v:13:y:1999:i:4:p:369-396
    DOI: 10.1023/A:1008230026880

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jorgenson, Dale W. & Wilcoxen, Peter J., 1993. "Reducing US carbon emissions: an econometric general equilibrium assessment," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 7-25, March.
    2. Adam B. Jaffe et al., 1995. "Environmental Regulation and the Competitiveness of U.S. Manufacturing: What Does the Evidence Tell Us?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(1), pages 132-163, March.
    3. Cline, William R, 1991. "Scientific Basis for the Greenhouse Effect," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(407), pages 904-919, July.
    4. Bohringer, Christoph & Rutherford, Thomas F., 1997. "Carbon Taxes with Exemptions in an Open Economy: A General Equilibrium Analysis of the German Tax Initiative," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 189-203, February.
    5. Terry Barker, 1995. "Taxing Pollution Instead of Employment: Greenhouse Gas Abatement through Fiscal Policy in the UK," Energy & Environment, , vol. 6(1), pages 1-29, February.
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