Environment commissioner pushes energy tax framework

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EU environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom is calling for majority voting on taxation to allow most member states to proceed with energy taxes. Speaking at the Energieforum 2001 conference in Berlin on February 1, she said it is "deplorable" that for four years finance ministers had been unable to approve the Commission's proposal for a framework for energy taxation. "The unanimity requirement is making progress on such a central element of our environmental policy nearly impossible," she said. The enhanced co-operation clause in the EC Treaty would allow a majority of countries to agree on common rules among themselves, while leaving the door open for other member states to join later, said Wallstrom. Given national concerns about competitiveness of their industry, a common strategy for energy taxes is essential, she believes, and would mitigate competitiveness worries in states which have already increased their energy taxes. "Member states that currently resist higher energy taxes may soon come to understand that without them they will have difficulties achieving their Kyoto targets," she added. According to Wallstrom, energy taxation is one of the two main pillars of a common EU strategy for tackling climate change. The other is emissions trading. The environment commission is at present assessing responses to a consultation on an internal EU trading system. Wallstrom wants to move ahead rapidly with EU-wide carbon emissions trading which could reduce costs to the EU of meeting its Kyoto commitments by a third from EUR 9 billion to EUR 6 billion.

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