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  • Writer's pictureJosé Vitor Ardinghi Brollo

What are we talking about when we talk about Green Taxation?

Authors: José Vitor Ardinghi Brollo and Maria Eduarda Ardinghi Brollo

Translated by: Ligia Payão Chizolini

The concept of green taxation is closely tied to its objective: the application of taxes aimed at either penalizing harmful behaviors or incentivizing positive ones for the health of the planet. It is based, on one hand, on the 'polluter-pays' principle to tax those degrading the ecosystem, and on the other hand, on reducing the legal (regulatory/tax) costs for economic agents displaying behavior that protects the positive externalities offered by what many call 'ecosystem services.'

The field of environmental tax law has proven to be an innovative alternative within state action. This is primarily due to its operational framework that incorporates environmental preservation as a determining element for tax application. By using the concept of 'extra-fiscal' taxes, the State has the capacity to play an interventionist role in human actions, notably in situations where such actions impact (positively or negatively) environmental balance.

However, at the same time that the field of green fiscal policies reinforces a logic already well-known in contemporary environmental law, it also has an impact on the construction of green state budgets. This dual nature, on one hand moralizing practices, and on the other hand, constructing public policy, makes this mechanism a contentious point in current environmental protection discussions.

One striking aspect is the use of strongly anthropocentric rhetoric in the practiced financial regulations, as they view nature as a provider of services to humanity, making it difficult to recognize it as a rights-bearing entity or even promoting the separation of the human race from socio-biodiversity.

However, even though green taxation contains this anthropocentric element and thus fits into a financialized capitalist economic landscape, it does present significant potential when combined with the global economic landscape and the pressing need for state capital for climate financing and compensation for losses and damages due to climate change and Nature preservation policies.

The rhetoric of the 'natural resource' represents a double-edged sword: while it offers a viable theoretical basis for taxing behaviors within an anthropocentric, financialized capitalist scenario, it diminishes the constructive ability of this budgetary and regulatory tool when it comes to the broad protection of Nature as a rights-bearing entity.

In this sense, green taxes need a perspective where they align with theories more attuned to the global fight against climate change and the promotion of sustainability and Nature protection, with the non-use of resource allocation as a measure for tax application. Additionally, 'extra-fiscal' measures serve as a tool that empowers moral and legal respect for socio-biodiversity and the natural system as endowed with rights.

Notes and References:

[i] Melo, M. E. (2016). Payments for Environmental Services (PES): between the protection and commodification of ecosystem services in the context of the environmental crisis (dissertation). Florianópolis - SC. 493 p.

[ii] TORRES, H. T. Development, environment, and extra-fiscal measures in Brazil. Videre Journal, [S. l.], v. 3, n. 6, p. 11–52, 2013. Available at: Accessed on: September 26, 2023.

[iii] ARTAXO, P. A new geological era on our planet: the Anthropocene?. USP Journal, [S. l.], n. 103, p. 13-24, 2014. DOI: 10.11606/issn.2316-9036.v0i103p13-24. Available at: Accessed on: September 26, 2023.

[iv] NUNES CAVALHEIRO, Larissa; BONESSO DE ARAUJO, Luiz Ernani. ENVIRONMENTAL LAW AND NATURAL AND CULTURAL DIVERSITIES IN BRAZIL: RIGHTS OF SOCIO-BIODIVERSITY AND SUSTAINABILITY IN THE BRAZILIAN CONSTITUTION - DOI: 10.5216/rfd.v%vi%i.32708. UFG Law School Journal, v. 41, n. 1, p. 123, 2017. Available at: Accessed on: September 26, 2023.

[v] GUDYNAS, Eduardo. The biocentric path: intrinsic values, rights of nature, and ecological justice. Tabula Rasa, Bogotá, n. 13, p. 45-71, July 2010. Available from Accessed on September 26, 2023.

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