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译:China must tax carbon

来源: 时间:2010/10/25 9:02:00 点击:

Chinese officials are reportedly preparing to introduce a levy on greenhouse-gas emissions. Energy finance expert Jiang Kejun tells Meng Si it cannot come soon enough.


China ranks second in the Forbes 2009 Tax Misery & Reform Index, coming only behind France. But Jiang Kejun, senior researcher at the National Development Reform and Commission’s Energy Research Institute, tells chinadialogue that a carbon tax in China would be a blessing – it would not increase the overall tax burden, and would even boost GDP growth.

From 2008 to 2009, Jiang and colleagues focused their research on carbon taxes, in order to provide reference material for policymakers.


Meng Si: There is a view that China’s overall tax burden is already very high and that adding a carbon tax would meet public opposition.

Jiang Kejun: The overall tax burden is very high, but a carbon tax could be revenue-neutral. This means increases are offset by reductions elsewhere, so that total revenue doesn’t change. If we collect 100 billion yuan (US$15 billion) in carbon taxes, we cut 100 billion of other taxes – that’s easily done.

We have put forward a number of proposals, such as reducing value-added tax or business tax. We initially thought about cutting income tax, but found that, as the poorest people do not earn enough to pay taxes, we would instead need to raise subsidies for that group. So if a carbon tax is implemented, it would be in tandem with cuts in other types of tax, keeping revenue unchanged.

MS: Would a carbon tax increase the burden on consumers?

JK: The overall amount of tax collected by the state would not change – it’s just a change to the structure of taxation. If you want to scrutinise the way in which that tax income is then used [i.e. whether or not it benefits the consumer], that’s an issue for the treasury. How best to use tax revenue is a question arising from development, and will take time to solve.

MS: Once collected, how will the tax be used?

JK: Most likely at the moment is that it would be fed directly into the treasury and spent along with other tax income. This tells us something about the importance the government places on climate change. There are ring-fenced funds for poverty and earthquake relief, with dedicated offices within the Ministry of Finance to spend those – but not for climate change. So climate change is not being given the same status as poverty or disaster relief.

MS: On paper, revenue-neutrality is easy to achieve. But how about when it comes to actual implementation?

JK: A carbon tax is effectively an energy tax. Coal is the main worry, as oil and natural-gas use are easily and carefully measured, but there’s the possibility of tax evasion with coal – it’s hard to determine quantities produced, and some mines may under-report. But if you’re going to collect an energy tax, this sort of thing is inevitable, so you need to look at the overall system of tax enforcement. And things should improve as coal-mining companies merge and mines expand.

MS: You argue that a carbon tax would have minimal impact on GDP, or even a positive effect, and that reasonable tax collection and a good taxation system could cause prices overall to fall. But what do “reasonable” and “good” mean here?

JK: We think a carbon tax would have a positive impact on GDP. Existing calculations show a very small drop in GDP, but there’s a failing in the model – it doesn’t allow for the inevitable acceleration in the pace of technological advances that a carbon tax would bring about.

The State Administration of Taxation has already set out a roadmap for taxation reform, with a “green taxation system” as part of this. I think this would be a good system.

At the moment, there is little sign of any increase in government spending, while income is increasing too fast. As with the Beijing municipal government, they’ve got more money than they know how to spend. Treasuries should run at a deficit, yet China has a surplus. That’s not good, and so there is a lot of pressure on the government there.

Another possible direction for tax reform is reducing the burden – for example by cutting value-added tax and individual income tax. But if these aren’t reduced, then the tax income should be spent on sustainable development and the low-carbon economy. Beijing’s government is doing that already, for example with subsidies for public transport. Taxation reform and new taxes must move in tandem if we are to relieve public worries about how taxes are used.

MS: Many officials say a carbon tax would create an image of China as a country fulfilling its responsibility to humanity and would give us the upper hand in negotiations. Has China’s consideration of a carbon tax been influenced by international climate negotiations?

JK: I think that’s not at all important. China shouldn’t pay too much attention to the international talks as it responds to climate change. By 2030, China is going to be the leader of the world, whether it wants to be or not. By that point, China is sure to be ahead in technology as well as other areas. We need to make China a competitive nation and a carbon tax – or taxes that are targeted at adjusting the economic structure – are an effective route to doing that. We should implement them as soon as possible.

China has long talked of making changes to its economic structure, but to date things are actually getting worse. Why? The government has long been doing its best, but is finding that its methods are becoming less effective. The 11th Five Year Plan’s emission-reduction targets relied almost exclusively on administrative measures. We really hope to see changes in the 12th Five Year Plan. The government is not an expert on energy saving, yet it is setting all these policies on how to save energy. The best way to turn energy-saving into market behaviour – so that firms themselves decide how to do it – is through taxation.

MS: Some academics say collecting a carbon tax at home would mean that the United States would not enforce carbon tariffs on our exports.

JK: These are two completely different issues. The United States is talking about “border tax adjustments”. I’ve spoken about this with the US State Department. First of all, whether or not they collect that tax depends on what China does – if we aren’t seen to be doing our part, then that tax will be imposed. But another piece of our research shows that China is currently doing more on climate change than the United States or the European Union or anyone else. So there’s no reason to impose that tax on our products.

Second, they also admit that if China is collecting a carbon tax, then they won’t collect the border tariff. China is already imposing export tariffs on 56 types of energy-intensive products, at about 10%. That’s higher than the “border tax adjustment” would be. What we have done is to replace tax rebates for exports with export tariffs – that is effectively a “carbon tax” that China is already collecting.

Also, the United States isn’t talking about imposing a carbon tariff on all our products. And reduced export of some products, such as coke, wouldn’t really have a big impact on China anyway. It’s fine by us if the United States wants to tax our energy-intensive products – but usually the emissions of our products are lower than those of the US.

MS: But aren’t there cases where our products produce more carbon than in the United States?

JK: Definitely. China is doing a huge amount on energy saving and emissions reduction. Our power-generating efficiency is now higher on average than the United States. And concrete and steel manufacturing in the US uses more power than in China.

But if you look at the sources of electricity used to make those products, we can’t compete – they use natural gas, we use coal. This is just a question of the resources we have. If we’re not allowed to use coal, we have to buy natural gas and that forces prices up, and the United States doesn’t want that either. So they won’t put those barriers in place lightly, because they won’t do them any good.

MS: Is there a timetable for a carbon tax?

JK: There are reports that it will start in 2013, but there’s no word on how environmental taxes will be applied and so it’s still too early to tell. As environmental taxes are a new type of tax, the National People’s Congress [China’s highest organ of power] will need to approve them – and carbon taxes are one type of environmental tax. I personally would like to see a carbon tax put in place in 2012.

I think it will happen fairly early. In 2014, we will reach the five-year point after Copenhagen and I think by then we will have seen some major changes globally.

(译文如有出入请联系本会,来源于chinadialogue)

译  文:

姜克隽:中国应尽快征收碳税

能源问题研究员姜克隽在接受孟斯专访时说中国正在考虑征收碳税,他认为此举能推动经济的发展,应尽早推行。


美国《福布斯》杂志“2009年全球税负痛苦指数排行榜”,中国已名列第二,仅次于法国。但中国发改委能源研究所研究员姜克隽在接受中外对话专访时说,中国仍应尽早开征碳税,这不仅不会增加总体税负,还可能促进GDP增长。

姜克隽和他的同事从2006年开始对能源财税政策的研究,2008年到2009年开展以碳税为主的研究,为政府决策提供参考。

中外对话:有观点说,中国的宏观税负已经很高,再征收新税,会引起公众反感。

姜克隽:宏观税负的确很高,但“税收中性”就解决这个问题,即有增有减,税收总额保持不变。比如假设碳税收入1000亿,可以在其他税赋上减少1000亿,这很容易实现。

我们提出过几种方案。比如减少增值税,还有减少营业税。最初还考虑过减少个人所得税,但后来发现最贫困的人群达不到交税的标准,所以那种方案后来改成了提高最低生活水平补贴标准。假如推出碳税,会同时出台关于其他税赋减少的方案,维持税收中性。

中外对话:碳税的征收会增加消费者的负担?

姜克隽:国家征收的总税款并不增加,只是内部结构的调整。如果非要质疑这个钱用的怎么样,那只能批评现有的国库税收使用体制。这是发展中的问题,要慢慢解决。

中外对话:这个税收上去怎么用?

姜克隽:现在比较可能的是直接进入国库,由政府统一计划。不过由此也可以看到国家对气候变化的重视程度――比如对于扶贫、地震的资金,财政部建立了专款专用办公室,但是没有为气候变化建立专门的办公室和人员搞专款专用,可见目前它的重要性不及扶贫和救灾。

中外对话:税收中性在技术上容易实现,但在监管方面呢?

姜克隽:碳税征收和能源税基本一模一样。我们比较担心的是煤炭,因为天然气和石油的计量都很简单严格,但煤炭方面可能会存在一定的偷税漏税,因为煤炭的生产量不容易确定,有可能导致一些煤矿瞒报产量。但对能源征税的话,这种情况无法避免,就要看整体的监管体制如何做。但随着煤炭企业兼并,变成大矿,这种情况也会好一些。

中外对话:您认为碳税开征后对GDP的影响很小,甚至可能是正向作用。而合理的税收和设立良好的税收体系可能还会使整体物价下降。您认为何谓“合理”和“良好”的税收体系?

姜克隽:我们认为征收碳税对GDP有正向效益。目前的计算是GDP下降很少,但模型的缺点是,不允许改变它的技术进步参数,要维持在起始年水平。但实际上征税之后,技术进步肯定要增速。

现在国家税务总局已制定了税收改革路线图,“绿色税制”是改革方向之一。我认为这会是比较良好的体系。

现在政府的支出增长已经非常不明显,但财政收入增长过快。就像北京市政府,头疼的是怎么花钱。国库应该有赤字,但我们老是盈余,这不行,所以政府压力也很大。

税收改革的另一个方向就是减负,比如增值税、个人所得税。即便不减,也要把这部分资金花在建设可持续发展和低碳上。现在北京市政府已经在这么做了,比如对公共交通的补贴。税制改革肯定要和新税推出同步,才能消除民众对税收用途的担心。

中外对话:很多官员称,开征碳税可以树立中国对人类负责任的国家形象,在谈判中获得主动权。中国考虑征收碳税,是否受到了国际气候谈判的影响?

姜克隽:我认为这个因素特别不重要。中国应对气候变化,不应该过多关注国际谈判。中国2030年以后肯定是世界的领导者,想推都推不掉。到那时,中国肯定在技术进步等领域处于强势地位。我们要把中国打造成一个竞争力强的国家,所以碳税,或者有针对性地改变经济结构的税种会非常有效,我们要尽早开征。

改变经济结构,中国已喊了很久,但到目前为止,经济结构越来越恶化。为什么?政府努力了半天,发现行政手段越来越不灵了。“十一五”减排目标基本靠行政手段达到。我们非常希望在“十二五”期间改变这种方式。政府不是节能专家,但现在各种节能的政策都要政府来定。把它变成一种市场行为,由企业自己来决定节能策略,税是非常好的方式。

中外对话:有学者说中国在国内征收碳税,就可以避免出口商品被美国征收碳关税。

姜克隽:这完全是两回事。美国提出的是碳“边境调节税”。美国国务院跟我谈过这个问题。第一,是否征收的标准是中国是否做出了努力。如果没有做出努力,就收这个税。而我们另一个研究表明,中国现在的减排努力是大于美国和欧盟的,排在世界第一位。所以这个理由不成立;第二,他们也承认,如果中国自己征税,他们就不征收。中国现在向56种高耗能产品征收出口税,税率大概在10%左右。这个数字已经超出了碳“边境调节税”的税率。中国现在的做法是把原来的出口退税改成了征收出口碳税,这种“碳税”已经开始征收了。

美国的要求也不是所有商品都得征收碳关税。有些商品减少出口对我们影响也不大,比如焦炭。我们希望美国对中国的高耗能产品收税,但中国产品的碳排放普遍比美国低。

中外对话:没有比美国碳排放高的产品么?

姜克隽:肯定也有。但中国现在节能减排力度很大,我们平均发电效率已经高于美国。比如生产水泥或钢铁,都用电的话,美国比中国更耗能。

但从国家能源结构计算,比如生产同一种产品,美国用天然气,我们用煤,这我们就比不过了,我们国家资源结构就是这样。你不让我用煤炭,那我们要是到国际市场大规模采购天然气,把天然气价格抬高,美国也害怕发生这种情况。所以他们不会轻易对中国搞这样的壁垒,因为对他们没好处。

中外对话:何时开始征收碳税,有时间表吗?

姜克隽:有消息称环境税可能在2013年开始征收,但并没有提到环境税包括的项目,所以现在还不得而知。环境税是一个单独的税种,其设立需要人民代表大会通过,而碳税是环境税的一个单独的税目。我个人主张是2012年开始征收。

我估计碳税开始征收会比较早。比如到2014年“哥本哈根+5”的时候,那时估计全世界会发生比较大的形势变化。

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