INTERVIEW - World needs global green tax - EU agency head
BRUSSELS - As the world tries to shake off recession, few policymakers would recommend hiking energy prices as a way to kick-start the global economy, but the head of the European Environment Agency is calling for exactly that.
EEA Executive Director Domingo Jimenez-Beltran wants a global tax on environmentally harmful fossil fuels, with the proceeds used to help develop the world\'s poorest countries.
\"Unless you get some global taxation it will be impossible to tackle the effects of globalisation,\" he told Reuters in an interview.
Although unlikely to appeal to many western governments, such a tax would encapsulate the ideal of \"sustainable development\", by stimulating growth in poorer countries while limiting environmental damage caused by richer nations, he said.
World leaders will try to square the circle of how to protect the earth and its finite natural resources, while at the same time spreading wealth, at a World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg at the end of August.
Jimenez-Beltran said that would be the perfect occasion to moot a global green tax, and for the European Union to lead by example, but EU diplomats said the bloc was unlikely to press hard for energy taxation because it was unrealistic.
\"Financing is the biggest issue for Johannesburg,\" he said.
The EU agency he has headed since 1994 is responsible for monitoring the state of Europe\'s environment but has no executive powers.
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Last month\'s U.N. summit on poverty in Monterrey, Mexico, set a target of halving the number of people in extreme poverty by 2015. A global tax, rather than voluntary donations, would be the best way to aid the poor, Jimenez-Beltran said.
\"If we really want to tackle the short-sightedness and the iniquities that globalisation creates, and really provide financing for development, we need some system to replenish (development) funds that is not voluntary.\"
The EU, which has clung on to the Kyoto pact on cutting greenhouse gases from fossil fuels blamed for global warming in the face of the United States\' walkout, has already begun thinking about radical energy taxes.
Many of the bloc\'s 15 member states have introduced green taxes aimed at controlling energy demand and the EU\'s executive Commission is considering a proposal to tax kerosene - aviation fuel which, by international treaty, is tax free.
It would require an international agreement to impose a general jet fuel tax, but the EU could opt to tax fuel used for flights within the bloc, although not for other international traffic.
Such a move could lead to global taxation on aviation fuel and, eventually, to other fuels, Jimenez-Beltran said.
\"It\'s ludicrous that one of the most luxurious ways of travelling (aviation) is not taxed. Kerosene is the clear (fuel to start taxing) because it\'s easy to collect. Second would be and oil tax...of
course producer countries might have something to say about that.\"
But EU diplomats involved in preparing for Johannesburg, said tax was not likely to be a priority subject at the summit.
\"It is EU policy to go for kerosene taxation globally, but I don\'t think it\'s going to be part of any agreement at Johannesburg,\" one said.
Previous proposals for global taxation such as the \"Tobin tax\" on currency trading have come to nothing.
Story by Robin Pomeroy
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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