International Handbook on Social Policy and the Environment
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International Handbook on Social Policy and the Environment

Edited by Tony Fitzpatrick

Environmental change is central to the global social policy challenges of the twenty-first century. This comprehensive Handbook brings together leading experts from around the world to address the most important questions and issues we face. How should welfare states adapt to environmental change? To what extent are the ecological and social policy agendas compatible? Must we contemplate radical reforms to the principles and organisation of welfare services? Combining cutting-edge theory and data in an interdisciplinary approach, this Handbook both summarises existing developments and suggests how debates and research must develop in the future.
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Chapter 5: Green taxes in Scandinavia: do they contribute to (in)equality?

Anders Branth Pedersen and Helle Ørsted Nielsen


The three Scandinavian countries - Denmark, Norway and Sweden - were among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)'s pioneers in introducing green taxes when green taxes gained momentum in several European countries in the 1990s (Andersen et al. 2001; Svendsen et al. 2001; Speck et al. 2006). From 1994 to 2010, Denmark experienced the highest percentage of revenue generated from environmentally related taxes measured as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) among OECD countries (OECD 2013 - data for 2010) and although Norway and Sweden are ranked lower on this list, slightly above the OECD average, the Scandinavian countries, after more than two decades, have a solid experience from which the effects of green taxes can be assessed. What effects have green taxes had on the equalities for which Scandinavian welfare states are well known (see e.g. Acemoglu et al. 2012)? Theoretically, the premise behind the introduction of environmental policy instruments is the negative environmental externalities which occur in unregulated economies. Contrary to command-and-control regulation, economic instruments create direct price signals for producers and consumers for the costs of pollution (OECD 2001a). By internalizing those negative externalities, economic instruments create an incentive for the agents (consumers, households, industries and so on) to reduce pollution. Additionally, green taxes are often considered to be more cost-effective than traditional command-and-control regulation.

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