The ministers are set to adopt today conclusions on sustainable materials management and sustainable production and consumption.
The text invites the Commission and member states to develop "a coherent mix of measures" to make European materials use more sustainable.
The EU Executive and the 27 member states are invited to consider in particular "the possibility of shifting the revenue base for national budgets from taxing labour towards taxing energy and resource use".
Last week, the European statistical office Eurostat noted that there has already been "green tax reform in some European countries," with green taxes increasing in proportion to other forms of taxation such as labour taxes.
According to Eurostat, environmental taxes in the EU-27 accounted for 2.4% of GDP in 2008, ranging from 1.6% of GDP in Spain to 5.7% in Denmark. Energy taxes accounted for 72% of total environmental taxes, transport taxes for 23% and pollution and resource taxes made up the remaining 5%.
Other measures considered in the draft ministerial conclusions include "steering the market towards recycling and waste reduction and recycling certificates, the internalisation of environmental costs" and the progressive removal of subsidies that have negative impacts on the environment.
Such proposals must be music to the ears of EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik who has hoped to persuade fiscal policymakers "to move beyond concerns for raising revenue" and to use their fiscal tools to steer their economies onto a greener path instead. He has also suggested adjusting prices by getting rid of environmentally harmful subsidies, particularly in the fields of agriculture, fisheries and forestry.
Potočnik’s services are currently preparing a roadmap to a resource-efficient Europe for publication in June 2011.
Extended producer responsibility, consumer awareness
The draft council conclusions show that ministers also believe it is necessary "to effectively make producers responsible for their products throughout the value chain and thus stimulate ecological design and closed loop systems".
Ministers will also suggest increasing information to consumers on "the environmental and social impacts of their consumption". This could be done through labelling schemes based on a wide range of environmental and social criteria considered over the full life-cycle of products.
Strategic research agenda for sustainability
On the research field, the Commission will be asked to develop a strategic research agenda focused on "the system innovation" to shift Europe towards a resource-efficient economy.
"A multi-actor transition platform on resource efficiency" should be created to help deliver on the different objectives.
The platform would bring together policymakers and industry, research organisations, consumer groups, trade unions, employers associations and NGOs, the draft conclusions note.