- Sebastien De Landtsheer
What could happen if we tax goods and services based on their "greenness"?
I have seen this idea here and there, but good discussions about it are scanty. Would it be possible to create a "greenness index" for virtually all goods and services available for tax-payers on earth? This index would take into account the ressources needed to manufacture, use, recycle, and dispose of the product, but also its long-term pollution potential, some measure of social impact, etc. In summary, an evaluation of the ethics behind that product. Then, the percentage of taxes perceived by the goverment would be a function of that index, ranging from tax-tree for "super-green" products to 100% tax for the more polluting ones.
I expect that such a system would immediately drive the economy towards more ethical products, while boosting the research and development of new technology, creating jobs, etc. We could make this system neutral for the goverments by adjusting how we calculate the index.
One example of such a system is the car market system (at least in Europe): when buying a environment-friendly car, you get a substantial discount, while annual taxes for the most energy-inefficient cars are not affordable for the average consumer. I think it works pretty well...
Dear TED contributors, who love simple ideas that can reshape the world, do you think the implementation of such a system would be beneficial? How will it fit in our current economy? What will be the obstacles and how can we overcome them?
Closing Statement from Sebastien De Landtsheer
I expected a more general discussion than that. Only specific things about US, while I was talking about all tax-payers in the world. I will restate the idea with an example:
Coca-Cola and Pepsi are audited and are determined to be 10% green. So taxes on these soda rise suddenly to 90%. Finding this situation unacceptable, Coca-Cola massively invests in green energy, social plans for its workers and sustainable agriculture. So on the next audit they score 50%. But Pepsi goes further, by replacing aspartame by natural sweeteners and capturing all CO2 emissions in the factories. So they score 80%. Next month, Coca-Cola discontinues high-calories sodas, invests in electric trucks, and plants forests on 10% of the land they own. They score 95% etc...
The goal is to not force people, it would not work indeed. But if suddenly the nice SUV (vrrrm!) you wanted to buy is taxed 70%, but the (less cool-looking maybe) electric car comes tax-free, you might not like it but you will go for the electric one, most likely (especially since the price for oil tripled).
I see the market like this: there is one force that keep pollution lox (regulations) and one force that keep pollution high (consumers choices). So they have to conflict in a dynamic equilibrium that is not maintained in the long-term. If we direct both forces in the same direction we get the desired effect. If consumers WANT to pollute less, not because of their conviction but for their own profit, the economy is driven, by the natural laws of the market, towards a more resilent model. Naturally, people will use less energy, consume more locally and expell less CO2
I hope such a law gets voted in the near future...