Paying the Polluter

Paying the Polluter

Environmentally Harmful Subsidies and their Reform

Edited by Frans H. Oosterhuis and Patrick ten Brink

Pledges to reform environmentally harmful subsidies (EHS) have increased over the past few years, at both global and national levels. Paying the Polluter addresses the most important issues to be considered when embarking upon these necessary reforms.

Chapter 2: A global survey of potentially environmentally harmful subsidies

Ronald Steenblik

Subjects: environment, environmental economics, environmental politics and policy, politics and public policy, environmental governance and regulation, environmental politics and policy


Environmentally harmful subsidies can be considered a subset of total government support. However, since the marginal environmental harm of any particular subsidy depends on how it interacts with other subsidies and policies, the answer to the question, 'How much does the world subsidize environmental harmful activities?' cannot be answered simply by summing up estimates of subsidies deemed a priori to have a reasonable potential to be environmentally harmful. Detailed, internationally comparable estimates of government support are, in any case, available only for certain sectors and countries - mainly for primary industries (agriculture, fisheries and energy) and their products. Primary industries certainly are of interest in this context because resource extraction, harvesting and cultivation are intimately connected with the natural environment. But, as environmentally extended input-output tables and models show, other economic activities can also have significant environmental impacts, both direct and indirect. The purpose of this chapter is not so much to attach a definitive number to the global scale of environmentally harmful subsidies as to provide a broad survey of the existing sectoral estimates of the environmental effects that they may be exacerbating. Some observations on how monitoring of potentially environmentally harmful subsidies could be improved conclude the chapter.

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