Chad P. Bown | Peterson Institute for International Economics
This chapter shows that EU law has shaped – and continues to shape – the development of environmental tax measures at both EU and Member State level. Firstly, at the EU level, the EU’s institutional framework has actually inhibited the harmonisation of environmentally-driven taxes. An analysis of the historical development of EU provisions surrounding energy taxation illustrates this point (sections 2.1. & 2.2). So far, the energy taxation directive remains largely disconnected from the EU’s climate policy, including the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (section 2.3). Secondly, EU substantive law has had an ambiguous impact on Member States’ environmental tax policy (section 3). On the one hand, EU substantive law has been interpreted by the EU Court of Justice in a way that encourages Member States to adopt environmental tax measures that are environmentally-driven and structured accordingly. Indeed, the environmental purpose of Member States’ tax measures seems to play a positive role in the assessment of their compatibility with EU law, including State aid provisions (section 3.1), the fundamental freedoms (section 3.2) and the energy taxation directive (section 3.3). On the other hand, in some instances, EU law strictly limits Member States’ ability to adopt environmentally-driven tax measures. Moreover, EU secondary law disregards the purpose of environmental taxes in order to classify them for statistical purposes (section 3.4). The broad picture that emerges from the analysis of existing legislation, case-law and literature highlights that institutional and substantive EU law has shaped the use of environmental tax measures in a way that does not ensure the alignment of these taxes with the EU’s and Member States’ environmental and climate ambitions. Therefore, the last section of this chapter suggests new areas of research, which could improve the consistency of environmental tax policy at both EU and Member State levels (section 4).