December 2014

 


Dear friends and supporters of Green Budget Europe!

The end of the year is approaching quickly. The GBE team would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for an eventful, interesting and successful year. We appreciate your interest and participation in our work, lively discussions during our conferences and workshops and stimulating conversations throughout. We are looking forward to more of the same in 2015!

GBE becomes a non-profit organisation
2014 was an extraordinary year for GBE, as we were established as an independent not-for-profit organisation under Belgian law on 4 November in Brussels. Since 2008, GBE had been run as a project within the German think tank Green Budget Germany. During this time, recognition among experts and policy-makers increased continuously and during our last annual meeting in October 2013 in Winterthur, Switzerland, the (then still informal) GBE Steering Committee decided that the time had come to put GBE on its own feet. A task force was established which prepared the new structure and statutes throughout the first half of this year. During the founding meeting, this document was signed by our six official founding members: Green Budget Germany, the European Environmental Bureau, Transport & Environment, the Hungarian Clean Air Action Group, the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, and Aldo Ravazzi Douvan from Italy in a private capacity. We also elected the first GBE Board.

This means GBE has become a pan-European organisation open for the membership of organisations and individuals. Since the day of the founding meeting, 30 organisations and individuals have already joined. But we believe we should be many more! If you are not a member yet, but support our vision of a greener and fairer Europe in which prices reflect costs to society and environment, please join us.

GBE has also recruited a Director for the new organisation, and is looking forward to welcoming James Nix from Ireland as of January to head the team. Trained as a lawyer, with postgraduate degrees in transport and planning and real estate, James has been the Director of Operations and Policy at An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland, for the past 2 years. Eike Meyer, Vice Director at Green Budget Germany, who relocated to Brussels for the past twelve months to steer GBE through the transition process, will return to Germany.

The crisis continues: Opportunities for change
In many ways, the political environment this year was full of challenges. Six years into their deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression, many European countries still struggle to recover. Enormous pressures for fiscal consolidation persist and most alarmingly, unemployment rates remain staggeringly high in many countries, especially in southern Europe. A green tax shift from labour to resource taxation, or an increase in environmental taxes, must be part of the way out by helping to consolidate their budgets, increase employment and solve Europe’s ecological crisis at the same time. This is one of the messages that GBE has continued to spread this year: we should use the opportunity afforded by the multiple crises we currently face to put Europe on a sustainable development path.

Falling oil and gas prices this year also created a new real window of opportunity to increase energy and transport fuel taxes and reduce subsidies. EU governments should use the opportunity by stepping in to keep oil and gas prices stable by increasing energy taxes, thus maintaining efficiency incentives, raising revenues for budgetary consolidation or to allow for the reduction of other taxes, and boosting employment. Moving while prices are low would boost acceptance of rising taxes and reduce social equity concerns, as tax increases would not have a discernible effect on prices.

Unfortunately, however, these opportunities are not being used so far, as the majority of national policy-makers focuses on a narrow growth agenda and seems to have fallen back into old habits, perceiving economy and environment at odds, rather than two sides of the same coin. To counteract this tendency, GBE has been working hard at EU level to promote EFR within the European Semester process of economic and fiscal policy coordination. While awareness of the potential of the European Semester is increasing, the European Council recommended green tax shifts to just eight EU Member States in 2014, down from 11 in 2013 – without there being any indication that the level of environmental taxation has improved significantly in the meantime. Another chance missed to green European taxes and spending!

At the same time, the new Commission has so far done almost all it could to diminish all hope that it would continue on the  course set by former Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, who fought hard for sustainable recovery policies and a “greening” of the Semester. The new Commission’s consideration to withdraw the Clean Air and Waste Packages and aiming to kill a deal on plastic bag pollution only weeks after taking up office certainly leaves little doubt about this Commission’s anti-environmental agenda. The 2015 Annual Growth Survey, published in late November 2014 is another: Unlike previous years, it made little mention of the potential of green taxation to boost the recovery and create jobs.

Strong progress in some Member States
On a more positive note, some EU Member States are moving ahead with EFR measures. Italy, who defined a “Greening of the European Semester” as one of the priorities for its 2014 Presidency of the EU, plans to increase environmental tax income from currently 2,5% of GDP to 3 % of GDP, reduce environmentally harmful subsidies and increase environmentally friendly expenditures. Portugal also recently adopted a number of EFR elements, introducing GHG emissions taxation, improvements to water taxation and a waste as well as a plastic bag tax. Norway has recently set up a Green Tax Commission to propose concrete measures to decarbonise the economy. Cyprus, where GBE held a workshop in June, could become another promising candidate for EFR.

GBE is doing its best to support such reform processes where we can, by providing expertise, by bringing national authorities in contact with relevant experts or by facilitating stakeholder dialogue. If you would like to work with us in your country, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Make a donation to GBE!
We would like to thank you for your important support in the past and look forward to our work in the future. In 2015 as in the past, we will continue spreading the word that green taxes and fiscal reform can make our economies work for people and planet. Reforming our fiscal systems will enable us to use taxes as a tool to shape our society, making it fairer and more equal – and to protect our climate and environment. In this endeavour, we appreciate your help! GBE cannot continue to grow and develop without the support of dedicated individuals and organisations. You can support us by making a donation or by becoming a member of GBE. You can collaborate in our projects or put us in touch with others who you think may be interested. We always welcome information and intelligence about EFR in your country.

We look forward to collaborating with as many of you as possible next year – and wish you all the best for the festive season and a good start in 2015.

All the best,

Constanze Adolf, Rozan Consten, Jacqueline Cottrell, Eike Meyer, James Nix and Nathalie Schmit.

Continue reading below and get an overview of some of our activities in the second half of 2014.

Past events
Publications
Press coverage

 
 

Past events

Hearing on „Strengthening the legitimacy of the European Semester to get smart, sustainable and inclusive growth - Giving a Voice to Civil Society proposals for Europe 2020"
Brussels, 3 December 2014
GBE as member of the Steering Committee of the "EU Alliance for a democratic, social and sustainable European Semester" co-organised a hearing, hosted by MEPs Jean Lambert (Greens/EFA) and Marian Harkin (ALDE) to discuss the European Semester with the new European Parliament and European Commissioners. 7 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and a member of Cabinet for the European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for the Euro and social dialogue, discussed the process and implementation of the European Semester. Constanze Adolf (GBE) presented windows of opportunity of Environmental Fiscal Reform for sustainable fiscal consolidation in the European Semester. Please find more information here.

European Environmental Bureau, Annual Conference
Brussels, Belgium, 1-2 December 2014
The EEB 40th anniversary conference looked at Europe at the crossroads: The challenge of environmental sustainability. Jacqueline Cottrell (GBE) contributed to a panel on “economy and environment”, focussing on opportunities for change in the coming years and discussing possible strategies and messages to improve understanding and communication of EFR issues.

Congreso Nacional de Madio Ambiente (CONAMA)
Madrid, Spain, 27 November 2014
Eike Meyer (GBE) contributed to a thematic session on environmental taxation at the largest conference on environmental policy in Spain. Together with him, MPs, policy-makers and academic experts discussed benefits and obstacles of an environmental tax reform in Spain. At the end of the session, participants adopted a consensual declaration in favour of environmental taxation measures. Here, you can read an interview with Eike Meyer on the experiences with EFR in other countries and its potential for Spain.

Green Budget Europe Annual Conference: "Recovery, Jobs and Sustainable Prosperity. A New Agenda for Green Fiscal Reform in Europe"
Brussels, 5 November 2014
Green Budget Europe's Annual Conference took place on November 5th in the Norway House in Brussels. 90 participants from EU institutions, research institutes, business and labour organisations, international organisations as well as social and environmental groups discussed key findings and experiences on green fiscal reforms. Recent successes and current challenges with green fiscal reforms in individual member states were presented and the potential role of green fiscal reform in the European Semester process and for economic recovery was evaluated. For more information on that day, please visit the event website.

Workshop: “Border Carbon Adjustments: Options for the EU?”
Brussels, 7 October 2014
GBE, together with Vivid Economics, hosted an expert seminar to explore and discuss the possibilities of Border Carbon Adjustments (BCAs) as an alternative to the current system of free allowances in the ETS. 17 stakeholders from industry, academics, NGOs and the OECD and IEA participated in a lively discussion about most appropriate and practical BCA design options, and which steps would be needed next to take an initiative to introduce BCAs in the EU. For more information, please click here.

Global Conference on Environmental Taxation
Copenhagen, Denmark, 24-26 September 2014
Numerous representatives of Green Budget Europe participated in this year’s GCET focussing on Environmental Taxation and Emissions Trading in an era of climate change, presenting research from GBE’s FRE-Communicate project on windows of opportunity for EFR within the European Semester as well as in Spain and Germany, and presented on and hosted a session on ways of improving communication of green taxes. All presentations from the conference are available online here. GBE (and GBG) were also sponsors of the event, and Jacqueline Cottrell was a member of the international programme committee.

Informal Joint Meeting of EU Environment and Labour Ministers
Milan, Italy, 17 July 2014
Anselm Görres, President of GBE, spoke at the first ever joint informal meeting of Ministers of Environment and Labour on opportunities created by a transition to a green economy. GBE and its Danish partner organization “The Danish Ecological Council” prepared a policy brief on “Green tax shift boost employment” which gained significant attention. To see the conclusions of this meeting, click here.

 
 

Publications


- "Environmental Fiscal Reform: Windows of Opportunity", article published by Constanze Adolf in the International Tax Review (09/2014).
- “Let´s make the European Semester smart, sustainable and inclusive”, report of the EU Semester Alliance.
- GBE, as member of the EU Alliance for a democratic, social and sustainable European Semester, assessed the content and process of the European Semester in 2014, in the context of the Mid-Term Review of Europe 2020 and its governance processes.
- “Toolkit for engaging with Europe 2020 and the European Semester 2014-2015”, toolkit of the EU Semester Alliance.

 
 

Press coverage

The launch of GBE as an independent organization attracted some press interest in Brussels, including:
- European Environmental Bureau, 4/11/2014
- DNR, 4/11/2014
- BusinessGreen, 4/11/2014
- Journal de l’environnement, 5/11/2014
- ENDSEurope, 14/11/2014
- EurActiv, 19/11/2014

CONTENTS
Past events
Publications
Press coverage


Board
Dr Anselm Görres (President)
Jos Dings (Vice-President)
Aldo Ravazzi Douvan (Vice-President)
Eike Meyer (Treasurer)
Pieter de Pous
András Lukács
Marlene Marques
Magnus Nilsson
André Langwost

GBE Team
James Nix
Eike Meyer
Dr. Constanze Adolf
Jacqueline Cottrell
Rozan Consten