02 March 2007


From the current issue of The Ecologist:

A report from the European Environment Agency, to be released next week, highlights the role subsidies play in choices of transport. The report found €270bn-€290bn is spent annually in Europe in transport subsidies. Almost half goes to road transport, which the EEA said was "one of the least environmentally friendly" transport modes. Disentangling the web of transport subsidies is complex, and the EEA will next month release a study showing in more detail how taxpayers fund road transport systems.
It’s perhaps a heroic assumption, but I do think that if there were transparency about where taxpayer and consumer funds go, I don’t believe we’d be quite so keen to subsidise the destruction of our planet. Or that we’d want to transfer funds from the poor to the rich, which is what most transport subsidies do, along with most other perverse subsidies – also known as environmentally harmful subsidies. It’s why I advocate, outcome-based policy, even if the full Social Policy Bond regimen is a bit too radical for today. We can’t do a great deal about the complexity of our economies or society, and that is what allows these ludicrous, corrupt subsidies to persist, but we can try to subordinate policy to transparent, meaningful, outcomes. Our failure to do this is not only environmentally irresponsible, fiscally wasteful, and socially inequitable: it also widens the gap between policymakers and the people they are supposed to represent.

As Norman Myers says: For every $1 going into solar power or wind power, there are $15 of government subsidy going into fossil fuels, which is crazy.

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