What does the environmental impact cost?

Method for better estimation of external environmental costs published

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What does the environmental impact cost us? Exactly this question could be answered better and, above all, more consistently with the help of a new convention developed by the Federal Environmental Agency.


The harm done to our environment has its price: Whether industrial air pollutants, greenhouse gases from energy production or harmful fine dust from cars and trucks which puts a strain on human health and the environment causes costs for our society. Costs, which often do not have to pay the polluter, but the general public. But how do environmentalists know how much each tonne of carbon dioxide or other air pollutants cost the economy? How does politics know whether it is worth promoting climate-friendly renewable energies? The range of such estimates is often quite high - not least because of very different methodological approaches.

This should now be different: With the "method convention for estimating external environmental costs" of the Federal Environmental Agency (UBA), external environmental costs can be better assessed on the basis of uniform and transparent criteria. "Today, environmental policy must deal more with economic issues than before, " said Andreas Troge, President of the Federal Environment Agency. "The more reliable estimate of external costs is important: it helps us to attribute environmental costs to the polluters - prices can better reflect the ecological truth."

The "Methodology Convention" proposes a uniform approach to calculate external costs and recommends uniform cost rates for key categories of damage - such as climate impact damage and damage from air pollutants such as particulate matter. Environmental economic assessments will become more transparent and consistent. display

Example: Renewable energy cheaper

The UBA has calculated the external costs for energy generation by way of example: It has been shown that the external costs of generating electricity from hard coal and lignite are on the order of six to nine cents per kilowatt hour (KWh). For the average, current power generation mix in Germany, external costs are just under six cents per kWh.

On the other hand, external costs for electricity from renewable energies are on average well below one cent per KWh. This shows that the promotion of renewable energies in Germany is economically sound. In 2006, the promotion of renewable energy through the EEG, according to preliminary data cost 3.2 billion euros. However, as we now see, this was offset by avoided environmental and health costs of at least 3.4 billion euros.

Car: cost of three cents per kilometer

For road traffic, UBA calculations showed that a passenger car in Germany causes on average just under three cents per driven kilometer of consequential costs for the environment and health - mainly from the emission of air pollutants and greenhouse gases. For a car with a total mileage of 100, 000 kilometers, so come together external costs of 3, 000 euros. With a truck, the costs add up to 17 cents per kilometer. If one also charged these costs, at least a doubling of the truck toll from the current 12.5 cents to 25 cents would be justified.

(UBA, 30.04.2007 - NPO)