Tuesday, June 27, 2017
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Home | Opinion | Kyoto. Paris. Marrakesh.

Kyoto. Paris. Marrakesh.

If we want to ensure that future generations enjoy a reasonably good life, we need a new, modern tax system quite soon that will make sustainable life possible. It must be easy to understand and be fairer than the current one, promote environmentally-friendly behaviour and make the plundering of resources unattractive. Its goal must be to bring climate protection and social justice into harmony with each other. This would work if each citizen received a tax account from the state with a credit for a sustainable life. It would work like this: On 1st January in a calendar year, a credit of 3,000 kilos of CO2 would be given and then a record would be kept for 365 days: in mobility, in the consumption of resources, and the degree of recycling of products. People producing little or no rubbish would be rewarded. People who flew a lot and bought a lot of imported foodstuffs, instead of producing them themselves or buying them locally, would pay more tax each year.

So, people who can manage their annual advance of 3,000 kilos of CO2 would pay not one euro more in tax. But those for whom the annual credit was not enough would pay one additional euro in CO2 tax for every kilo of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. At present, that would amount to an average of 4,000 euros additional income per citizen for the finance minister, who could then present a debt-free budget to parliament in 2017 and pay off the country’s historic debt burden more quickly. There would be more tax for frequent flyers, less for rail travellers. People who consume fewer resources would thus be rewarded.

What is there to be said against developing the inefficient economic, social and health systems a bit? Subsidies, unemployment benefit, low rents? My suggestion: just abolish them. That would save at least 24 billion euros. In return, Portugal could pay every adult citizen – at present around eight million – an unconditional basic monthly income of 500 euros (6,000 euros per year) for life. Anyone who wanted to go and work as well would have that choice. To earn the remaining 24 billion euros (eight million citizens x 6,000 euros = 48 billion euros) we would start with a kerosene tax for every litre of aviation fuel burnt in flight, among other things. Power units emit the most CO2. In all these years, the airlines haven’t paid a single cent in tax, while motorists pay tax on every litre of fuel. Petrol and diesel should be taxed at higher rates.

Why not abolish VAT too? Instead, we would call it a consumption tax, amounting to at least 25%. Up to an additional 25% should be levied in tax on energy-intensive products and their oil-based packaging. One example: disposable PET bottles for drinks and everything based on crude oil. The declared aim is always ZERO waste.

In the mobility sector, the current motorway tolls should be properly invested in establishing an efficient railway company and in CO2-free, electrified regional passenger transport.

Marrakesh and COP22 were just an intermediate stop on the shared path towards a low-carbon economy and society.

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