Why Europe has become environmentally cleaner: Decomposing the roles of fiscal, trade and environmental policies

Ramón López
Amparo Palacios
Environmental and Resource Economics
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This paper examines the role of fiscal policy, trade and energy taxes on environmental quality in Europe using disaggregated data at the monitoring station level for the 12 richest European countries spanning the period from 1995 to 2008. Our estimations show that fiscal policies and energy taxes are important determinants of pollution through various mechanisms. We find that increasing the share of fiscal spending in GDP and shifting the emphasis towards spending in public goods and against non-social subsidies significantly lower the concentrations of sulfur dioxide and ozone but not nitrogen dioxide. At the same time, energy taxes reduce nitrogen dioxide concentrations but have no effect on ozone and sulfur dioxide. Finally trade openness has a direct effect on sulfur dioxide but no effect on nitrogen dioxide or ozone. Our estimates account for time-varying unobserved heterogeneity.