The polluter pays principle aims to deter and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by taxing the emitting industries. The polluter pays principle has received strong support from many member countries of the European Union (EU) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The reasoning behind the principle is that those responsible for pollution, both of the industry and of the person, should bear the costs of managing the pollution, removing the burden from the government and, in turn, from the tax payers.
The principle of pollution pays in action
Several countries around the world have promulgated the “polluter pays” principle.
The European Union has implemented the “polluter pays” principle in April 2004 through Directive 2004/35 / EC of the European Parliament and the European Council. Member states were granted three years from April 30, 2004 to incorporate the directive into national law. The directive aimed to enforce the “polluter pays” principle as the companies responsible for environmental damage to land, water resources, natural habitats and protected species would be responsible for bearing the total costs for preventive and corrective actions. A 2016 report confirmed that although the “polluter pays” principle was effective in motivating prevention and dealing with damage, it did not reach its full potential.
The polluter pays principle is used in many areas of pollution control laws such as the Clean Air Act, the law on clean water, conservation of resources and the law on recovery and the Superfund as well as eco-taxes as the Guzzler gas tax and the average corporate fuel economy. However, the US Environmental Protection Agency has found that the laws and enacted taxes have not reached the full potential of the “polluter pays” principle.
Limitations of the “polluter pays” principle
One of the problems surrounding the “polluter pays” principle is the limited capacity of the government to oblige those responsible to cover the costs of both preventive and corrective action. Although many countries around the world have put into practice the “polluter pays” principle, in reality, there are limited mechanisms to ensure that those responsible fully engage in appropriate actions regarding environmental damage.