Emission trading and carbon taxes around the world (2019)
Carbon tax implemented or scheduled
A coal-fired power plant in Luchegorsk
, Russia. A carbon tax would tax the CO
emitted from the power station.
A carbon tax is a tax levied on the carbon content of goods and services, predominantly in the transport and energy sectors. Carbon taxes intend to reduce carbon dioxide C0
2 emissions by increasing prices, thereby decreasing demand for such goods and services. David Gordon Wilson first proposed a carbon tax in 1973. Carbon taxes are a form of carbon pricing. The term carbon tax is also used to refer to a carbon dioxide equivalent tax, which can be placed on any othergreenhouse gas or combination of greenhouse gases.
When a hydrocarbon fuel such as coal, petroleum, or natural gas is burnt, its carbon is converted to carbon dioxide (CO
2) and other carbon compounds/allotropes. Greenhouse gases causes global warming, which damages the environment and human health. This negative externality can be reduced by taxing carbon content at any point in the product cycle. Carbon taxes are thus a type of Pigovian tax.
Research shows that carbon taxes effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many economists argue that carbon taxes are the most efficient (lowest cost) way to curb climate change. Seventy-seven countries and over 100 cities have committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. As of 2019 , carbon taxes have been implemented or scheduled for implementation in 25 countries, while 46 countries put some form of price on carbon, either through carbon taxes or emissions trading schemes. To avoid the negative impacts of these regressive taxes, carbon tax revenues can be directly spent on low-income groups, or distributed among some or all consumers via tax credits.
Carbon dioxide is one of several heat-trapping greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted as a result of human activities, and the scientific consensus is that human-induced GHG emissions are the primary cause of global warming, and that carbon dioxide is the most important of the anthropogenic GHGs. Worldwide, 27 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide are produced by human activity annually. The physical effect of CO
2 in the atmosphere can be measured as a change in the Earth-atmosphere system's energy balance – the radiative forcing of CO
A series of treaties and other agreements have focused attention on climate change. In the 2015 Paris Agreement CO
2 countries committed to reducing their GHG emissions over the ensuing decades.
Different GHGs have different physical properties: the global warming potential is an internationally accepted scale of equivalence for other greenhouse gases in units of tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
In January 2019, economists published a statement in the Wall Street Journal calling for a carbon tax, describing it as "the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary." In February 2019, the statement had been signed by more than 3,000 U.S. economists, including 27 Nobel Laureate economists.
Economists like to argue, about climate change as much as anything else. [...] But on the biggest issue of all, they nod in agreement, whatever their political persuasion. The best way to tackle climate change, they insist, is through a global carbon tax.
A carbon tax is a form of pollution tax. Two other economic approaches are often used to manage pollution: tradable permits/credits and subsidies.
Classic command and control regulations instead explicitly limit or prohibit emissions by each individual polluter. Such approaches are typically enforced by enacting financial or criminal penalties. The instrumental distinction between a tax and a command-and-control regulation is determined by the enacted legislative names, and whether they contain "tax" as a defined term within the Act, for example British Columbia's Carbon Tax Act versus Alberta's now-obsolete Specified Gas Emitters Regulation, Alta Reg 139/2007.
A carbon tax is an indirect tax—a tax on a transaction—as opposed to a direct tax, which taxes income. Carbon taxes are price instruments since they set a price rather than an emission limit.
In economic theory, pollution is considered a negative externality, a negative effect on a third party not directly involved in a transaction, and is a type of market failure. To confront the issue, economist Arthur Pigou proposed taxing the goods (in this case hydrocarbon fuels), that were the source of the externality (CO
2) so as to accurately reflect the cost of the goods to society, thereby internalizing the production costs. A tax on a negative externality is called a Pigovian tax, which should equal the cost.
Within Pigou's framework, the changes involved are marginal, and the size of the externality is assumed to be small enough not to distort the economy. Climate change is claimed to result in catastrophe (non-marginal) changes. "Non-marginal" means that the impact could significantly reduce the growth rate in income and welfare. The amount of resources that should be devoted to climate change mitigation is controversial. Policies designed to reduce carbon emissions could have a non-marginal impact, but are asserted to not be catastrophic.
In addition to creating incentives for energy conservation, a carbon tax puts renewable energy such as wind, solar and geothermal on a more competitive footing.
Carbon leakage happens when the regulation of emissions in one country/sector pushes those emissions to other places that with less regulation. Leakage effects can be both negative (i.e., increasing the effectiveness of reducing overall emissions) and positive (reducing the effectiveness of reducing overall emissions). Negative leakages, which are desirable, can be referred to as "spill-over".
According to one study, short-term leakage effects need to be judged against long-term effects.:28 A policy that, for example, establishes carbon taxes only in developed countries might leak emissions to developing countries. However, a desirable negative leakage could occur due to reduced demand for coal, oil, and gas in developed countries, lowering prices. This could allow developing countries to substitute oil or gas for coal, lowering emissions. In the long-run, however, if less polluting technologies are delayed, this substitution might have no long-term benefit.
Carbon leakage is central to climate policy, given the 2030 Energy and Climate Framework and the review of the European Union's third carbon leakage list.
Border adjustments, tariffs and bans
Policies have been suggested to address concerns over competitive losses experienced by countries that introduce a carbon tax versus countries that do not.:5 Border tax adjustments, tariffs and trade bans have been proposed to encourage countries to introduce carbon taxes.
Border tax adjustments compensate for emissions attributable to imports from nations without a carbon price. An alternative would be trade bans or tariffs applied to such countries. Such approaches could be inadmissible at the World Trade Organization. Case law there has not provided specific rulings on climate-related taxes. The administrative aspects of border tax adjustments have been discussed.
Other types of taxes
Two related taxes are emissions taxes and energy taxes. An emissions tax on GHG emissions requires individual emitters to pay a fee, charge, or tax for every tonne of greenhouse gas, while an energy tax is applied to the fuels themselves.
In terms of climate change mitigation, a carbon tax is not a perfect substitute for an emissions tax. For example, a carbon tax encourages reduced fuel use, but it does not encourage emissions reduction such as carbon capture and storage.
Energy taxes increase the price of energy regardless of emissions. An ad valorem energy tax is levied according to the energy content of a fuel or the value of an energy product, which may or may not be consistent with the emitted GHG amounts and their respective global warming potentials. Studies indicate that to reduce emissions by a certain amount, ad valorem energy taxes would be more costly than carbon taxes. However, although GHG emissions are an externality, using energy services may result in other negative externalities, e.g., air pollution. Accounting for these other externalities, an energy tax may be better at reducing air pollution than a carbon tax alone.
Any of these taxes can be combined with a rebate, where the money collected by the tax is returned to qualifying parties, taxing heavy emitters and subsidizing those that emit less carbon.
Embodied carbon and architecture
Embodied carbon emissions, or upfront carbon emissions (UCE), are the result of creating and maintaining the materials that form a building. As of 2018, "Embodied carbon is responsible 11% of global GHG emissions and 28% of global building sector emissions ... Embodied carbon will be responsible for almost half of total new construction emissions between now and 2050."
Steve Webb, co-founder of Webb Yates Engineers, has suggested that buildings with "high carbon frames should be taxed like cigarettes," to create a presumption in favour of timber, stone, and other zero-carbon architectural design techniques."
Other reduction strategies
Fuel taxes and carbon taxes encourage carpooling. Carpools offer the added benefits of helping to reduce commute time, reduce car accident rates, increase personal savings, and improve quality of life. Drawbacks include the cost of enforcement, increased police stops, and political resistance from increased government involvement in daily life.
Petroleum (gasoline, diesel, jet fuel) taxes
Many countries tax fuel directly; for example, the UK imposes a hydrocarbon oil duty directly on vehicle hydrocarbon oils, including petrol and diesel fuel.
While a direct tax sends a clear signal to the consumer, its efficiency at influence consumers' fuel use has been challenged for reasons including:
- Possible delays of a decade or more as inefficient vehicles are replaced by newer models and the older models filter through the fleet.
- Political pressures that deter policymakers from increasing taxes.
- Limited relationship between consumer decisions on fuel economy and fuel prices. Other efforts, such as fuel efficiency standards, or changing income tax rules on taxable benefits, may be more effective.
- The historical use of fuel taxes as a source of general revenue, given fuel's low price elasticity, which allows higher rates without reducing fuel volumes. In these circumstances, the policy rational may be unclear.
Vehicle fuel taxes may reduce the "rebound effect" that occurs when vehicle efficiency improves. Consumers may make additional journeys or purchase heavier and more powerful vehicles, offsetting the efficiency gains.
Social cost of carbon
This section needs to be updated. The reason given is: current estimate of SCC and now know that carbon in the stratosphere has more effect so jet value needs multiplying.. (May 2019)
A carbon tax based on the social cost of carbon (SCC) varies by fuel source. CO
2 production per unit of mass or volume is multiplied by the SCC to compute the tax. Based on the mean peer-reviewed value ($43 per tonne coal or $12 per tonne CO
2), the table below estimates the appropriate tax by fuel type:
(mass of CO
(per fuel unit)
(mass of CO
|Tax per kWh of electricity
||2.35 kg/L (19.6 lb/US gal)
||$0.029/L ($0.11/US gal)
||2.67 kg/L (22.3 lb/US gal)
||$0.032/L ($0.12/US gal)
||2.65 kg/L (22.1 lb/US gal)
||$0.032/L ($0.12/US gal)
||1.93 kg/m3 (0.1206 lb/cu ft)
||$0.023/m3 ($0.00066/cu ft)
||181 g/kWh (117 lb/million BTU)
||1.396 kg/kg (2,791 lb/short ton)
||333 g/kWh (215 lb/million BTU)
||1.858 kg/kg (3,715 lb/short ton)
||330 g/kWh (213 lb/million BTU)
||2.466 kg/kg (4,931 lb/short ton)
||317 g/kWh (205 lb/million BTU)
||2.843 kg/kg (5,685 lb/short ton)
||351 g/kWh (227 lb/million BTU)
The tax per kWh of electricity depends on the thermal efficiency of the related power plant. The table follows the American Physical Society (APS) estimate of 3.0 Wh (10.3 BTU) input per output 1.0 Whe or 33%. The APS noted that "future plants, especially those based on gas turbine systems, often will have higher efficiency, in some cases exceeding 50%.The EDF powerplant in Bouchain, France achieved highest efficiency to date: 62%.
Research shows that carbon taxes effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Most economists assert that carbon taxes are the most efficient and effective way to curb climate change, with the least adverse economic effects.
One study found that Sweden's carbon tax successfully reduced carbon dioxide emissions from transport by 11%. A 2015 British Columbia study found that the taxes reduced GHG emissions by 5–15% while having negligible overall economic effects. A 2017 British Columbia study found that industries on the whole benefited from the tax and "small but statistically significant 0.74 percent annual increases in employment" but that carbon-intensive and trade-sensitive industries were adversely affected. A 2020 study of carbon taxes in wealthy democracies showed that carbon taxes had not limited economic growth.
A number of studies have found that in the absence of an increase in social benefits and tax credits, a carbon tax would hit poor households harder than rich households. Gilbert E.Metcalf disputed that carbon taxes would be regressive in the US.
Both energy and carbon taxes have been implemented in response to commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In most cases the tax is implemented in combination with exemptions.
This section's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information
. (August 2011)
A tax on emissions was proposed for South Africa. Announced by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. The tax will be implemented starting 1 September 2015 on new motor vehicles. This tax was to apply at the time of sale, and related to the amount of CO
2 emitted by the vehicle. 75 South African Rand were to be added to the price for every gram of CO2 per kilometer the vehicle emits above 120 g/km. The tax applied to passenger cars first and eventually to commercial vehicles. Bakkies (pickup trucks) are to be taxed because of their use as passenger vehicles: this caused an uproar for fear of affecting industry.
David Powels of the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA), opposes this taxation on light commercial vehicles. The tax could increase the cost of new vehicles by 2.5% and decrease sales: Powels also questioned the ability to accurately predict CO2 emissions based on engine capacity. NAAMSA acknowledged the ability of carbon taxes to change consumer behavior for the betterment of the environment, but argued that this tax is not transparent enough because the taxation occurs at the time of automobile production. Powels says the tax is discriminatory because it targets new vehicles, and that the government should focus on introducing "green fuel" to South Africa.
Carbon tax is payable in foreign currency at the rate of US$0.03 (3 cents) per litre of petroleum and diesel products or 5% of the cost, insurance, and freight value (as defined in the Customs and Excise Act [Chapter 23:02]), whichever is greater.
This section's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information
. (May 2019)
The Chinese Ministry of Finance proposed to introduce a carbon tax in 2012 or 2013. The tax might affect the internal market, as well as many other laws and regulations. Given the size of the Chinese economy also contribute importantly to the mitigation of climate change. In 2017, China announced an emissions trading scheme.
This section needs to be updated. (March 2021)
On 1 July 2010, India introduced a carbon tax of 50 rupees per tonne ($1.07/t) of coal both produced and imported into India. In 2014, the tax increased the price to ₹100 per tonne ( $1.60/t at $60.5 conversion)Coal powers more than half of the country's electricity generation.
India's total coal production was estimated to reach 571.87 million tons in the year ending March 2010 and was expected to import around 100 million tons. The carbon tax expects to raise ₹25 billion ($535 million) for the financial year 2010–2011. The clean energy tax was promised to finance a National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF). Industry bodies did not support the levy.
Under Narendra Modi, the carbon tax was increased form ₹100 per tonne to ₹200 per tonne in the Budget 2015–16. It later rose to ₹400 per tonne.
In October 2012, Japan introduced a carbon tax to finance renewable energy and energy conservation projects.
In December 2009, nine industry groupings opposed a carbon tax at the opening day of the COP-15 Copenhagen climate conference stating, "Japan should not consider a carbon tax as it would damage the economy which is already among the world's most energy-efficient." The industry groupings represented the oil, cement, paper, chemical, gas, electric power, auto manufacturing and electronics, and information technology sectors. The sectors stated that "the government has neither studied nor explained thoroughly enough why such a carbon tax is needed, how effective and fair it is and how the payments are to be used."
In 2005, an environmental tax proposed by Japanese authorities was delayed due to major opposition from the Petroleum Association of Japan (PAJ), other industries, and consumers.
On 20 February 2017, Singapore proposed a carbon tax. The proposal was refined to tax large emitters at S$5 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions. The Carbon Pricing Act or CPA, was passed on 20 March 2018 and came into operation on 1 January 2019.
In October 2009, vice finance minister Chang Sheng-ho announced that Taiwan was planning to adopt a carbon tax in 2011. However, Premier Wu Den-yih and legislators stated that carbon taxes would increase public suffering from the recession and that the government should not levy the new taxes until Taiwan's economy had recovered, opposing the tax. However, Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research (CIER), the think-tank that was commissioned by the government to advise on its plan to overhaul the nation's taxes, had recommended a levy of NT$2,000 (US$61.8, £37.6) on each tonne of CO2 emissions. CIER estimated that Taiwan could raise NT$164.7bn (US$5.1bn, £3.1bn) from the energy tax and a further NT$239bn (US$7.3bn, £4.4bn) from the carbon levy on an annual basis by 2021. The government planned to subsidize low income families and public transportation with the revenues.
On 1 July 2012, the Australian Federal government introduced a carbon price of AUD$23 per tonne on selected fossil fuels consumed by major industrial emitters and government bodies such as councils. To offset the tax, the government reduced income tax (by increasing the tax-free threshold) and increased pensions and welfare payments slightly, while introducing compensation for some affected industries. On 17 July 2014, a report by the Australian National University estimated that the Australian scheme had cut carbon emissions by as much as 17 million tonnes. The tax notably helped reduce pollution from the electricity sector.
On 17 July 2014, the Abbott Government passed repeal legislation through the Senate, and Australia became the first nation to abolish a carbon tax. In its place, the government set up the Emission Reduction Fund.
In 2005, the Fifth Labour Government proposed a carbon tax to meet obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. The proposal would have set an emissions price of NZ$15 per tonne of CO2-equivalent. The planned tax was scheduled to take effect from April 2007 and apply across most economic sectors though with an exemption for methane emissions from farming and provisions for special exemptions from carbon-intensive businesses if they adopted best-practice standards.
After the 2005 election, some of the minor parties supporting the Fifth Labour Government (NZ First and United Future) opposed the proposed tax, and it was abandoned in December 2005. In 2008, the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme was enacted via the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading) Amendment Act 2008.
This section's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information
. (May 2019)
In Europe, many countries have imposed energy taxes or energy taxes based partly on carbon content. These include Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. None of these countries has been able to introduce a uniform carbon tax for fuels in all sectors.
During the 1990s, a carbon/energy tax was proposed at the EU level but failed due to industrial lobbying. In 2010, the European Commission considered implementing a pan-European minimum tax on pollution permits purchased under the European Union Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) in which the proposed new tax would be calculated in terms of carbon content.The suggested rate of €4 to €30 per tonne of CO2.
As of 2002, the standard carbon tax rate since 1996 amounted to 100 DKK per tonne of CO
2, equivalent to approximately €13 or US$18. The rate varies between 402 DKK per tonne of oil to 5.6 DKK per tonne of natural gas and 0 for non-combustible renewables. The rate for electricity is 1164 DKK per tonne or 10 øre per kWh, equivalent to .013 Euros or .017 US dollars per kWh. The tax applies to all energy users. Industrial companies can be taxed differently according to the process the energy is used for, and whether or not the company has entered into a voluntary agreement to apply energy efficiency measures.
In 1992, Denmark issued a carbon tax, charging about $14 for business and $7 for households, per ton of CO
2. However, Denmark offers a tax refund for energy efficient changes. Most of the money collected would be put into research for alternative energy resources.
Finland was the first country in the 1990s to introduce a CO2 tax, initially with exemptions for specific fuels or sectors. Energy taxation was changed many times. These changes were related to the opening of the Nordic electricity market. Other Nordic countries exempted energy-intensive industries, and Finnish industries felt disadvantaged by this. Finland placed a border tax on imported electricity, but this was found to be out of line with EU single market legislation. Changes were then made to the carbon tax to partially exclude energy-intensive firms. This had the effect of increasing the costs of reducing CO2 emissions.:16
Vourc'h and Jimenez proposed that arguments based on competitive losses be viewed with caution. For example, they suggested that carbon tax revenues could be used to reduce labour taxes, which would favour non-energy-intensive industries.:17
In 2009, France detailed a carbon tax with a levy on oil, gas, and coal consumption by households and businesses that was supposed to come into effect on 1 January 2010. The tax would affect households and businesses, which would have raised the cost of a litre of unleaded fuel by about four euro cents (25 US cents per gallon). The total estimated income from the carbon tax would have been between €3–4.5 billion annually, with 55 percent from households and 45 percent from businesses. The tax would not have applied to electricity, which in France comes mostly from nuclear power.
On 30 December 2009, the bill was blocked by the French Constitutional Council, which said it included too many exceptions. Among those exceptions, certain industries were excluded that would have made the taxes unequal and inefficient. They included exemptions for agriculture, fishing, trucking, and farming. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, although he vowed to "lead the fight to save the human race from global warming", was forced to back down after mass social protests led to strikes. He wanted support from the rest of the European Union before proceeding.
In 2014, a carbon tax was implemented. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced the new Climate Energy Contribution (CEC) on 21 September 2013. The tax would apply at a rate of €7/tonne CO
2 in 2014, €14.50 in 2015 and rising to €22 in 2016. As of 2018, the carbon tax was at €44.60/tonne. and was due to increase every year to reach €65.40/tonne in 2020 and €86.20/tonne in 2022.
After weeks of protests by the "Gilets Jaunes" (yellow vests) against the rise of gas prices, French President Emmanuel Macron announced on 4 December 2018, the tax would not be increased in 2019 as planned.
The German ecological tax reform was adopted in 1999. After that, the law was amended in 2000 and in 2003. The law grew taxes on fuel and fossil fuels and laid the foundation for the tax for energy. In December 2019, the German Government agreed on a carbon tax of 25 Euros per tonne of CO
2 on oil and gas companies. The law will come into effect in January 2021. The tax will be grow to 55 Euros per tonne by 2025.
Republic of Ireland
In 2004, following a policy review, the Irish Government rejected a carbon tax option. In 2007 a Fianna Fáil-Green Party coalition government was formed, and promised to reconsider the matter. In 2010 the country's carbon tax was introduced at €15 per tonne of CO2 emissions (approx. US$20 per tonne).
The tax applies to kerosene, marked gas oil, liquid petroleum gas, fuel oil, and natural gas. The tax does not apply to electricity because the cost of electricity is already included in pricing under the Single Electricity Market (SEM). Similarly, natural gas users are exempt if they can prove they are using the gas to "generate electricity, for chemical reduction, or for electrolytic or metallurgical processes". Partial relief is granted for natural gas covered by a greenhouse gas emissions permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency. Such gas will be taxed at the minimum rate specified in the EU Energy Tax Directive, which is €0.54 per megawatt-hour at gross calorific value." Pure biofuels are also exempt. The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) estimated costs between €2 and €3 a week per household: a survey from the Central Statistics Office reports that Ireland's average disposable income was almost €48,000 in 2007.
Activist group Active Retirement Ireland proposed a pensioner's allowance of €4 per week for the 30 weeks currently covered by the fuel allowance and that home heating oil be covered under the Household Benefit Package.
The tax is paid by companies. Payment for the first accounting period was due in July 2010. Fraudulent violation is punishable by jail or a fine.
The NGO Irish Rural Link noted that according to ESRI a carbon tax would weigh more heavily on rural households. They claim that other countries have shown that carbon taxation succeeds only if it is part of a comprehensive package that includes reducing other taxes.
Carbon Tax was introduced in Ireland in the 2010 budget by the Green Party/Fianna Fáil coalition government at a rate of €15/tonne CO
2. It was applied to motor gasoline and diesel and to home heating oil (diesel).
In 2011, the coalition government of Fine Gael and Labour raised the tax to €20/tonne. Farmers were granted tax relief.
The Netherlands initiated a carbon tax in 1990. However, in 1992, it was replaced with a 50/50 carbon/energy tax called the Environmental Tax on Fuels, the taxes are assessed partly on carbon content and partly on energy content. The charge was transformed into a tax and became part of general tax revenues. As such, it fell under the administration of the Ministry of Finance. The general fuel tax is collected on all hydrocarbon fuels. Fuels used as raw materials are not subject to the tax. Tax rates are based 50/50 on the energy and carbon contents of fuels. In 1996, The Regulatory Tax on Energy, another 50/50 carbon/energy tax, was also implemented. The Environmental tax and the regulatory tax are 5.16 Dutch guilder, or NLG, (~$3.13) or per tonne of CO2 and 27.00 NLG (~$16.40) per tonne CO2 respectively. Under the general fuel tax, electricity is not taxed, though fuels used to produce electricity are taxable. Energy-intensive industries used to benefit from preferential rates under this tax but the benefit was canceled in January 1997. Also, since 1997, nuclear power has been taxed under the general fuel tax at the rate of NLG 31.95 per gram of uranium-235.38 In 2008, the European Environment Agency put out an Executive Summary stating "Although the 5th Environmental Action Programme of the EU in 1992 recommended the greater use of economic instruments such as environmental taxes, there has been little progress in their use since then at the EU level." However, "at Member State level, there has been a continuing increase in the use of environmental taxes over the last decade, which has accelerated in the last 5–6 year...Countries including the Netherlands and the United Kingdom."
In 2007, The Netherlands introduced a Waste Fund that is funded by a carbon-based packaging tax. This tax was both used to finance the national Treasury and to finance the activities to help reach the goals of recycling 65% of used packaging by 2012. The organization Nedvang (Nederland van afval naar grondstof or The Netherlands from waste to value), which was set up in 2005, is the organization supporting producers and importers of packaged goods reaching individual company goals under the Dutch packaging decree. This decree was signed in 2005 and states that producers and importers of packaged goods are responsible for the collection and recycling of that waste and that at least 65% of that waste has to be recycled. Producers and importers can choose to reach the goals on an individual basis or by joining an organization like Nedvang.
The Carbon-Based Tax on Packaging was analyzed on behalf of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and proven to be ineffective. Therefore, the packaging tax was abolished. Producer responsibility activities for packaging are now financed based on private contracts, that have been declared legally binding.
In January 1991, Sweden enacted a CO2 tax of SEK 250 per 1000 kg ($40 at the time, or EUR 27 at current rates) on the use of oil, coal, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, petrol, and aviation fuel used in domestic travel. Industrial users paid half the rate (between 1993 and 1997, 25% of the rate), and certain high-energy industries such as commercial horticulture, mining, manufacturing, and the pulp and paper industry were fully exempted from these new taxes.
In 1997, the rate was raised to SEK 365 per 1000 kg ($60) of CO2. In 2007, the tax was SEK 930 per 1000 kg (EUR 101) of CO2.
The tax is credited by Emma Lindberg and University of Lund Professor Thomas Johansson with spurring a significant move from hydrocarbon fuels to biomass. As the previously mentioned Swedish Society for Nature Conservation climate change expert Emma Lindberg said, "It was the one major reason that steered society towards climate-friendly solutions. It made polluting more expensive and focused people on finding energy-efficient solutions."
"It increased the use of bioenergy", said University of Lund Professor Thomas Johansson, former director of energy and climate at the UN Development Programme. "It had a major impact in particular on heating. Every city in Sweden uses district heating. Before, coal or oil was used for district heating. Now biomass is used, usually, waste from forests and forest industries."
According to a 2019 study, Sweden's implementation of a carbon tax substantially reduced carbon dioxide emissions.
In 1993, the UK government introduced the fuel duty escalator (FDE), an environmental tax on retail petroleum products. The tax was explicitly designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the transport sector. Since carbon is in a fixed ratio to the quantity of fuel, the FDE roughly approximated a carbon tax. The transport lobby in the UK was extremely critical of the FDE. The FDE, which was the UK's only "real" carbon tax, failed because of the political criticism it provoked, and the automatic increase of the FDE was canceled in 1999. Increases in fuel tax have since been discretionary.
The politically damaging fuel protests in 2000 contributed to the government's decision to reduce the real rates of fuel tax. At the time, tax and duty represented more than 75% of the total pump price. In money terms, the past increments of the FDE remain in force, but in real terms, increments have been reduced by the rate of inflation. In 2006, tax represented about ⅔ of the pump price.
In addition, the UK's Climate Change Levy (CCL) was introduced in 2001.
Norway introduced a CO2 tax on hydrocarbon fuels in 1991. The tax started at a high rate of US$51 per tonne of CO2 on gasoline, with an average tax of US$21 per tonne The tax was also applied to diesel, mineral oil, oil and gas used in North Sea
extraction activities. The International Energy Agency's (IEA) 2001 Review of Norway in the Energy Policies of IEA Countries stated that "since 1991 a carbon dioxide tax has applied in addition to excise taxes
on fuel." It is among the highest carbon taxes in the OECD. Carbon taxation is also applied to the production of oil and gas offshore. The IEA estimates for revenue generated by the CO2 tax in 2004 were 7,808 million NOK (about US$1.3 billion in 2010 dollars).
According to IEA 2005 Review of Norway, Norway's CO2 tax is its most important climate policy instrument, and covers about 64% of Norwegian CO2 emissions and 52% of total GHG emissions. Some industry sectors have been granted exemptions from the tax to preserve their competitive position. Various studies in the 1990s, and an economic analysis by Statistics Norway, have estimated the effect of the CO2 tax to be a reduction of 2.5–11% of Norwegian emissions under a business-as-usual approach (i.e., the predicted emissions that would have occurred without the tax). However, even with the carbon tax, Norway's per capita emissions rose by 15% between 1991 (when the carbon tax was introduced) and 2008.
In attempt to reduce CO
2 emissions by a larger amount, Norway implemented the first phase of an Emissions Trading Scheme in 2005 and joined the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) in 2008. As of 2013, roughly 55% of CO
2 emissions in Norway are taxed and emissions that are not covered by a carbon tax are included in the EU ETS. Certain CO
2 taxes are applied to emissions that result from petroleum activities on the continental shelf. This tax is charged per liter of oil and natural gas liquids produced, as well as per standard cubic meter of gas burnt off or otherwise directly emitted into the air. However, this carbon tax is considered a deductible operating cost for petroleum production which can therefore be written off to reduce the ordinary taxes paid by oil companies. In 2013, carbon tax rates were doubled in Norway to a rate of 0.96 NOK per liter/standard cubic meter of mineral oil and natural gas. As of 2016, the tax rate has been increased to 1,02 NOK per liter or standard cubic meter of oil and natural gas. Despite this increase, there is intention to reduce the tax in the future if there is a rise in the EU ETS price from the rate it was when the increased carbon tax rate was implemented. According to the Norwegian Ministry of the Environment, CO
2 taxes have been the most important tool for reducing emissions produced by petroleum activities and there is a low level of CO
2 emissions per produced oil equivalent.
In January 2008, Switzerland implemented a CO
2 incentive tax on all hydrocarbon fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas, unless they are used for energy. Gasoline and diesel fuels are not affected by the CO
2 tax. The tax is collected by the Swiss Federal Customs Administration. It is an incentive tax because it is designed to promote the economic use of hydrocarbon fuels. The tax amounts to CHF 12 per tonne CO
2, which is the equivalent of CHF 0.03 per litre of heating oil (US$0.108 per gallon) and CHF 0.025 per m3 of natural gas (US$0.024 per m3). This tax comes from Switzerland's 1999 Federal Law on the Reduction of CO2 (CO2 Law). Although Switzerland prefers to rely on voluntary actions and measures to achieve emissions reductions, the CO2 Law mandated the introduction of a CO2 tax if voluntary measures proved to be insufficient. In 2005, the federal government decided that additional measures were needed to achieve emissions reductions and meet Kyoto Protocol commitments of an 8% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. In 2007, the CO
2 tax was approved by the Swiss Federal Council, coming into effect in 2008. In 2010, the highest tax rate will be CHF 36 per tonne of CO
2 (US$34.20 per tonne CO
Companies are allowed to exempt themselves from the tax by participating in a Swiss cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme where they voluntarily commit to legally binding targets to reduce their CO2 emissions. Under this scheme, emission allowances are given to companies for free, and each year emission allowances equal to the amount of CO2 emitted must be surrendered by the company. Companies are allowed to sell or trade excess permits. However, should a company fail to surrender the correct amount of allowances, they must pay the CO2 tax retroactively for each tonne of CO2 emitted since the exemption was granted. About 400 companies take part in trading CO2 emission credits under this program. In 2009, for the second year in a row, the companies returned enough credits to the Swiss government to cover their CO2 emissions for the year. The 2009 report shows that companies emitted only about 2.6 million tonnes of CO2, falling well below the total permissible quantity of 3.1 million tonnes. The Swiss carbon market still remains fairly small, with few emissions permits being traded. Swiss domestic law tends to favor the use of a CO2 tax to achieve emissions reductions and this preference for taxes combined with an immature carbon market could partially explain why Switzerland has not yet joined the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS).
The tax is revenue-neutral, and its revenues are redistributed proportionally to companies and to the Swiss population. For example, if the population bears 60% of the tax burden, they will receive 60% of the redistribution. For companies, revenues will be redistributed to all companies, except those who chose to exempt themselves from the tax through the cap-and-trade program. The revenue is given to the companies in proportion to the total payroll of their employees and is distributed through an AHV compensation fund (Federal Old-Age and Survivors' Insurance) that pays the relevant amount of revenue to the company. The revenues from the tax that were paid by the Swiss population are redistributed equally to all Swiss residents through health insurance companies and a deduction on their insurance premium. In June 2009, the Swiss Parliament decided to allocate about one-third of the revenue from the carbon tax to a 10-year building program for climate-friendly building renovations. This program promotes building renovations, the use of renewable energies, the use of waste heat, and building engineering.
As part of the early-redistribution program decided by the Swiss Federal Council in 2009, the tax revenue from 2008, 2009, and 2010, are being distributed in 2010. In 2008 alone, the tax of CHF 12 per tonne of CO2 raised around CHF 220 million (US$209 million) in revenue. As of 16 June 2010, a total of around CHF 360 million (US$342 million) have become available for distribution to the Swiss population and economy. It is estimated that in 2010, at the highest tax rate of CHF 36 per tonne of CO2, the revenue from the tax will be about CHF 630 million (US$598 million). Out of the projected CHF 630 million, CHF 200 million (US$190 million) will be allocated for the building program, and the remaining CHF 430 million (US$409 million) will be redistributed in 2010 to the population and the economy. The International Energy Agency (IEA) commends Switzerland's CO
2 tax for its excellent design and notes that the recycling of the tax revenues to all citizens and enterprises is "sound fiscal practice".
Since 2005, transport fuels in Switzerland have been subjected to the Climate Cent Initiative surcharge—a surcharge of CHF 0.015 per liter on gasoline and diesel (US$0.038 per gallon) which will remain in place until the end of 2012. However, this surcharge can be supplemented with a CO2 tax on transport fuels if emissions reductions are not satisfactory. In their 2007 review, the IEA recommended that Switzerland implement a CO2 tax on transport fuels or increase the Climate Cent surcharge to better balance the high costs of meeting emissions reductions targets across sectors.
Switzerland is currently on track to meet its Kyoto Protocol commitment of an 8% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. The combination of the CO2 tax and other voluntary measures by businesses and private individuals is enabling Switzerland to achieve these reduction goals.
In 1997, Costa Rica imposed a 3.5 percent carbon tax on hydrocarbon fuels. A portion of the funds generated by the tax go to "Payment for Environmental Services" (PSA) program which gives incentives to property owners to practice sustainable development and forest conservation. Approximately 11% of Costa Rica's national territory is protected by the plan. The program now pays out roughly $15 million a year to around 8,000 property owners.
In the 2008 Canadian federal election, a carbon tax proposed by Liberal Party leader Stéphane Dion, known as the Green Shift, became a central issue in the campaign. It would have been revenue-neutral, with increased taxation on carbon being balanced by tax cuts for individual citizens. However, it proved to be unpopular and contributed to the defeat of the Liberal Party with its worst share of the popular vote since Confederation. By contrast, the Conservative party, who won the election, had promised to "develop and implement a North American-wide cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases and air pollution, with implementation to occur between 2012 and 2015."
In 2018, Canada passed the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act implementing a revenue-neutral carbon levy starting in 2019. This fulfils a campaign pledge that Justin Trudeau made in 2015, before being elected as Prime Minister of Canada. The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act will apply only to provinces which do not have provincial carbon pricing systems meeting the federal requirements. In each province, the levied funds will be redistributed to citizens (households).
As of September 2020, seven of thirteen Canadian provinces and territories are using the federal carbon tax while three have developed their own carbon tax programs.
The Canadian province of Quebec became the first in Canada to introduce a carbon tax. The tax was to be imposed on energy producers starting 1 October 2007, with revenue collected used for energy-efficiency programs including public transit. The tax rate for gasoline is $CDN0.008 per liter, or about $3.50 per tonne of CO
On 19 February 2008, the province of British Columbia announced its intention to implement a carbon tax of $10 per tonne of Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions (2.41 cents per litre on gasoline) beginning 1 July 2008, making BC the first North American jurisdiction to implement such a tax. The tax will increase each year after until 2012, reaching a final price of $30 per tonne (7.2 cents per litre at the pumps). Unlike previous proposals, legislation will keep the pending carbon tax revenue neutral by reducing corporate and income taxes at an equivalent rate. Also, the government will also reduce taxes above and beyond the carbon tax offset by $481 million over three years. In January 2010, the carbon tax was applied to biodiesel. Before the tax actually went into effect, the government of British Columbia sent out "rebate cheques" from expected revenues to all residents of British Columbia as of 31 December 2007. In January 2013, the carbon tax was collecting about $1 billion each year which was used to lower other taxes in British Columbia. Terry Lake, the minister of the environment of British Columbia, said "It makes sense, it's simple, it's well accepted."
The British Columbia revenue-neutral carbon tax is based on the following principles:
- All carbon tax revenue is recycled through tax reductions – The government has a legal requirement to present an annual plan to the legislature demonstrating how all of the carbon tax revenue will be returned to taxpayers through tax reductions. The money will not be used to fund government programs.
- The tax rate started low and increases gradually – Starting at a low rate gave individuals and businesses time to make adjustments and respects decisions made prior to the announcement of the tax.
- Low-income individuals and families are protected – A refundable Low Income Climate Action Tax Credit is designed to help offset the carbon tax paid by low-income individuals and families.
- The tax has the broadest possible base – Virtually all emissions from fuel combustion in B.C. captured in Environment Canada's National Inventory Report are taxed, with no exemptions except those required for integration with other climate action policies in the future and for efficient administration.
- The tax will be integrated with other measures – The carbon tax will not, on its own, meet B.C.'s emission-reduction targets, but it is a key element in the strategy. The carbon tax and complementary measures such as a "cap and trade" system will be integrated as these other measures are designed and implemented.
Following implementation many Canadians concluded that the carbon tax generally benefitted the British Columbian economy, in large part because its revenue neutral feature did indeed reduce personal income taxes. However some industries complained loudly that the tax had harmed them, notably cement manufacturers and farmers. Nevertheless, the tax generated sufficient praise to attract broad attention in the United States and elsewhere from those seeking an economically efficient way of reducing the emission of greenhouse gases without hurting economic growth.
In July 2007, Alberta enacted the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation, Alta. Reg. 139/2007, (SGER). This carbon tax requires a $15/tonne contribution be made to the "Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund" (CCEMF) by companies that emit more than 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas annually to either reduce their CO2 emissions per barrel by 12 percent, or buy an offset in Alberta to apply against their total emissions.
In January 2016, the contribution required by large emitters to the CCEMF was increased by the provincial government to $20/tonne.
The tax will fall most heavily on oil companies and coal-fired electricity plants. It intends to give companies a real incentive to lower emissions while fostering technology that makes the job easier. The plan only covers the largest companies that produce 70% of Alberta's emissions. There are concerns that this is a serious omission because the smallest energy producers are often the most casual about emissions and pollution. The carbon tax is currently $20 per tonne. Because Alberta has the highest greenhouse gas emissions in Canada the majority of Albertans are strongly opposed to a nationwide carbon tax. There is a fear that a nationwide carbon tax would cause Alberta's economy to suffer significantly more in proportion to other provinces. Alberta is also opposed to a Cap and Trade system it fears the trades will pull revenue out of the province, a fear not to be dismissed. Alberta's local carbon price allows the money to stay within Alberta.
On 23 November 2015, the Alberta government announced a new carbon tax scheme very similar to British Columbia's in that it will be applied to the entire economy. All businesses and residents paid carbon tax based upon the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, including the burning of wood and biofuels. The tax comes into force in 2017 with a price of $20 per tonne.
On 4 June 2019 carbon tax repeal bill received royal assent
and carbon tax scheme from 23 November 2015 was officially removed.
Estimated effect of a carbon tax on sources of United States electrical generation (US Energy Information Administration)
A federal carbon emissions tax has been proposed for the United States as a simpler solution than having different systems at the state level. According to economists, a tax would be the simplest and the easiest way to reduce emissions since, primarily, it seems like a plan both parties can get behind since it would not impose strict regulations on business, instead of allowing the industries to self-regulate, while also a showing that the government is taking steps to protect the environment. Furthermore, a tax would lead both producers and consumers to adjust their respective habits accordingly, and in ways that may become more efficient. On 23 July 2018 Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) introduced H.R. 6463, the "Modernizing America with Rebuilding to Kick-start the Economy of the Twenty-first Century with a Historic Infrastructure-Centered Expansion (MARKET CHOICE) Act." There is also a national movement called Citizens' Climate Lobby to create support across parties to put a national price on carbon. Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization helping to end climate change through policy. One of their initiatives is to support putting a price on carbon pollution and allocating the proceeds directly to U.S. Citizens via a monthly dividend check (see Carbon Fee and Dividends) to spend as they see fit. Also, Americans for Carbon Dividends is building support for the Baker-Shultz Carbon Dividends Plan, and is supported by several large companies including First Solar, American Wind Energy Association, Exxon Mobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and Total SA.
Internal price on carbon
Although the United States does not currently implement a carbon tax, many American corporations calculate an "internal price on carbon". Companies calculate this internal price to assess the risk value of future projects when making economic investment decisions. Companies usually assess a higher internal price when I) the company emits large amounts of CO
2, and II) when the company projects further into the future. Oil companies usually have assets (factories, refineries) that have a long lifespan and that can be affected by energy policies in the future; the products and assets of consumer-goods companies are mostly influenced by current policies, so their carbon prices are usually lower.
Oil companies like Shell and ConocoPhillips apply this carbon price to current and future operations; the motivation is to "apply the carbon price as much to spur mitigation as to quantify risks".
Internal carbon prices for various US companies
||Internal carbon price (US$)
||CO2 emitted in 2013 (million tonnes)
The US Environmental Protection Agency has recently removed their page regarding the social cost of carbon since the new Trump administration has been installed. EPA Director Scott Pruitt's skepticism towards human contributions to climate change has led to a decreased emphasis towards advancing climate change policies. Several administrative advisers have stated that the social cost should be reduced to zero (currently at $36 per ton of carbon dioxide). A possible reduction or elimination of the social carbon cost would lead to the overhaul of dozens of climate regulations established in previous administrations.
In November 2006, voters in Boulder, Colorado passed what is said to be the first municipal carbon tax. It is a tax on electricity consumption (utility bills) with deductions for using electricity from renewable sources (primarily Xcel's WindSource program). The goal is to reduce carbon emissions to those outlined in the Kyoto Protocol; specifically to reduce their emissions by 7% below 1990 levels by 2012. Tax revenues are collected by Xcel Energy and are directed to the city's Office of Environmental Affairs to fund programs to reduce community-wide greenhouse gas emissions.
Boulder's Climate Action Plan (CAP) tax is expected to raise $1.6 million in 2010. The tax was increased to a maximum allowable rate by voters in 2009 to meet CAP goals. Currently, the tax is set at $0.0049 /kWh for residential users (ave. $21 per year), $0.0009 /kWh for commercial (ave. $94 per year), and $0.0003 /kWh for industrial (ave. $9,600 per year). The revenues from the tax are expected to decrease over time as businesses and residents reduce their energy use and begin to use more solar and wind power. The tax was renewed by voters on 6 November 2012.
As of 2015, the Boulder carbon tax is estimated to reduce carbon output by over 100,000 tons per year and allows the city to collect $1.8 million in revenue. This revenue is invested back into the community by providing bike lanes, energy-efficient solutions, rebates for business and homeowners to further invest in green energy, and community-based programs to further still bring awareness to the movement. The surcharge has been generally well-received. The average household pays US$21 towards the tax each year, while the average business pays $94 per year.
In May 2008, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which covers nine counties in the San Francisco Bay Area, passed a carbon tax on businesses of 4.4 cents per ton of CO2.
In 2006, the state of California passed AB-32 (Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006), which requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To implement AB-32, the California Air Resources Board proposed a carbon tax but has yet to reach an agreement with the Western States Petroleum Association which represents the refineries in the state. The WSPA holds that AB-32 only allows a carbon tax to cover administrative costs.
In May 2010, Montgomery County, Maryland passed the nation's first county-level carbon tax. The legislation required payments of $5 per ton of CO2 emitted from any stationary source emitting more than a million tons of carbon dioxide during a calendar year. There is only one source of emissions fitting the criteria laid out by the council, an 850 megawatt coal-fired power plant owned by Mirant Corporation. The tax was expected to raise between $10 million and $15 million for the county, which faced a nearly $1 billion budget gap. The law provided for half of revenue to go toward creating a low interest loan plan for county residents to invest in residential energy efficiency upgrades. The County's energy supplier buys its energy at auction, so Mirant would have to sell its energy at market value, which meant no discernible increase in energy costs would be felt by the county's residents. In June 2010, the Mirant Corporation sued the county to stop the tax. In June 2011 the Federal Court of Appeals ruled that the tax was a fee imposed "for regulatory or punitive purposes" rather than a tax, and therefore could be challenged in court. The County Council repealed the fee in July 2012.
Economists and climate scientists
Greg Mankiw, head of the Council of Economic Advisers under the George W. Bush administration, economic adviser to Mitt Romney for his 2012 presidential campaign and economics professor at Harvard University since 1985, has been advocating for increased carbon/oil taxation since at least 1999. In 2006, he founded the Pigou Club of economists advocating for Pigovian taxes, a carbon tax chiefly among them. In the club's manifesto, he writes that "[h]igher gasoline taxes, perhaps as part of a broader carbon tax, would be the most direct and least invasive policy to address environmental concerns."
In 1979, economist Milton Friedman expressed support for the idea of a carbon tax in an interview on The Phil Donahue Show, saying "...the best way to [deal with pollution] is to impose a tax on the cost of the pollutants emitted by a car and make an incentive for car manufacturers and for consumers to keep down the amount of pollution."
In 2001, environmental scientist Lester Brown, founder of the Worldwatch Institute and founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute, outlined a detailed "tax shifting" structure which would not lead to an overall higher tax level: "It means reducing income taxes and offsetting them with taxes on environmentally destructive activities such as carbon emissions, the generation of toxic waste, the use of virgin raw materials, the use of non-refillable beverage containers, mercury emissions, the generation of garbage, the use of pesticides, and the use of throwaway products... activities that should be discouraged by taxing."" Brown subsequently added that such a tax shift would amount to an "honest market," explaining, "The key to restructuring the economy is the creation of an honest market, one that tells the ecological truth." In 2011 he estimated the cost of such a tax shift, including the effects of better technology, the use of renewables, and "updating the concept of national security."
Former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker suggested (6 February 2007) that "it would be wiser to impose a tax on oil, for example, than wait for the market to drive up oil prices. A tax would give the government 'some leverage that you can use for other things.'", supporting a carbon tax.
NASA climatologist James E. Hansen has argued in support of a carbon tax.
Commencing in North America, the nonprofit Citizens' Climate Lobby has been advocating for carbon tax legislation (specifically a progressive fee and dividend model with revenue returned to citizens in the form of a check or rebate). The organization has about 165 chapters in the United States, Canada, and several other countries including Bangladesh and Sweden.
Monica Prasad, a Northwestern University sociologist, wrote about Denmark's carbon tax in The New York Times in 2008. In her view, the Danish carbon tax served as an example of how to reduce emissions in the US. Prasad argued that a critical component for Denmark's success in reducing carbon emissions from 1990 to 2005 was that the tax revenues from the carbon tax were dedicated to subsidies for firms to use for alternative, environmentally cleaner sources of energy.
According to economist Laura D'Andrea Tyson, "The beauty of a carbon tax is its market-based simplicity. Economists since Adam Smith have insisted that prices are by far the most efficient way to guide the decisions of producers and consumers. Carbon emissions have an "unpriced" societal cost in terms of their deleterious effects on the earth's climate. A tax on carbon would reflect these costs and send a powerful price signal that would discourage carbon emissions." She listed several prominent economists and political figures that have supported carbon taxes.
While the carbon tax is widely known as a breakthrough bipartisan climate change solution, one must also highlight its shortcomings. As of a 2015 report, it is estimated that developing countries are responsible for 63% of the current carbon emissions; this positively indicates that their economies are growing but negatively indicates the number of carbon emissions in our atmosphere. It is important to note that various barriers stand in the way of developing countries from adopting plans to slow carbon emissions, including a carbon tax. Developing countries often prioritize economic growth and poverty alleviation over lowering their fossil fuel use and decreasing their carbon footprint. One way to reverse climate change, while still providing the power necessary to support these developing economies, is with nuclear power. Nuclear energy can be an appropriate option to combat climate change. It has a low enough carbon footprint that would help reverse the carbon levels in our atmosphere while working to power these communities. Another potential option to combat climate change would be through the use of wind energy instead of fossil fuels. Wind turbines are a sustainable and renewable source of power that can be used to power our communities. Eliminating fossil fuels is an essential step in solving the climate change crisis, but there are multiple renewable energy sources one can explore in an effort to reach this goal.
Former US Vice President Al Gore strongly backed a carbon tax in his book, Earth in the Balance. In 2000, when Gore ran for president, one commentator labeled Gore's carbon tax proposal a "central planning solution" harking back to "the New Deal politics of his father." Former United States Congressional Representative Bob Inglis (R-South Carolina) heads the Energy and Enterprise Initiative at George Mason University which is making the conservative case for climate legislation through support for a carbon tax.
- Carl Pope, former executive director of the Sierra Club, supports a carbon tax over cap-and-trade because employers will know exactly what they paid for the carbon dioxide they produced, and because a cap-and-trade system (with grandfathered permits) rewards those who have the highest emissions now and have done the least to reduce them previously.
- Gary Becker, a follower of the Chicago School of Economics, expressed his support for carbon taxes over cap-and-trade. Becker won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1992.
- In 2008, Rex Tillerson, then CEO of Exxonmobil, said a carbon tax is "a more direct, more transparent and more effective approach" than a cap and trade program, which he said, "inevitably introduces unnecessary cost and complexity." He also said that he hoped that the revenues from a carbon tax would be used to lower other taxes so as to be revenue neutral.
- The American Enterprise Institute, Environmental economist Jack Pezzey, economist Jeffrey Sachs (director of the Earth Institute of Columbia University), Yale economist William Nordhaus, The Earth Policy Institute, The Australia Institute, the Centre for Independent Studies, and Harvard professor, Gregory Mankiw also prefer carbon taxes to cap-and-trade.
- In 2016 in Washington state, the Sierra Club, the Washington Environmental Council, Climate Solutions, and the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy opposed a proposed tax of $25 per tonne on fossil fuels arguing that the enactment would undermine state finances. In 2018, they instead supported a carbon tax of $15 per tonne of carbon in that state, along with many other environmental groups, in part because the proceeds would fund projects that would steer the state away from fossil fuels.
- In 2015, BG Group, BP, Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil, and Total sent an open letter to the UNFCCC calling for the implementation of carbon pricing and eventually link it all up into a global system.
- A 2019 International Monetary Fund report stated that "a global tax of $75 per ton by the year 2030 could limit the planet's warming to 2 degrees Celsius."
- Fred Smith, CEO of FedEx;
- James Owens, CEO of Caterpillar;
- Paul Anderson, CEO and Chairman of Duke Energy.
- Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX
- Unilever has spoken out in favor of a carbon tax
- Nestlé favors a carbon tax
Carbon taxes compared to carbon emission trading
An alternative government policy to a carbon tax is a cap on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Emission levels of GHGs are capped and permits to pollute are freely allocated (called "grandfathering") or auctioned to polluters. Auctioning permits has significant economic advantages over grandfathering.
In particular, auctioning raises revenues that can be used to reduce distortionary taxes and improve overall efficiency.
A market may be allowed for these emission permits so that polluters can trade some or all of their permits with others (cap-and-trade). A hybrid instrument of a cap and carbon tax can be made by creating a price-floor and price-ceiling for emission permits. A carbon tax can also be implemented concurrently with a cap.
Unlike a cap system with grandfathered permits, a carbon tax raises revenues. If the revenues are used to reduce other distortionary taxes, this can improve the efficiency of the tax. On the other hand, a cap with grandfathered permits can have an efficiency advantage of being applied to all industries. This provides an equal incentive at the margin for all polluters to reduce their emissions. This is an advantage over a tax that exempts or has reduced rates for certain sectors. There is nothing, however, that requires a tax to exempt or offer reduced rates to particular sectors as has been demonstrated in the British Columbia carbon tax.
Both carbon taxes and permit systems (sometimes known as "Cap and Trade") aim to reduce the total quantity of carbon emissions by creating a price for emitting CO
2 pollution, but they achieve this goal in distinctly separate ways. While carbon taxes dictate the price that will be paid for each unit of pollution, permit systems set a specific quantity of CO
2 that all applicable entities will be held to and divides this total amount into tradable permits. In the absence of uncertainty these two systems will achieve the same effect and result in the efficient market quantity of CO
2 and price charged per unit of CO
In the case of environmental uncertainty, that is when the environmental damages of each unit of CO
2 cannot be accurately calculated, a permit system may be more advantageous in order to limit total quantity and thus potential damages. In the case of uncertainty regarding the costs of CO
2 abatement for firms, a tax is preferable. The abatement uncertainty issue was illustrated in 2005 by the first phase of the European Union Emissions Trading System (cap and trade). In this program, the initial allocation of permits was too great as the EU did not accurately assess the CO
2 reduction capabilities of the various firms it regulated, and thus firms simply reduced their emissions to their allotted quantity without the purchase of any additional permits. This drove the permit prices to nearly zero two years after the program began, crashing the system and commanding reform and permit allocation refinement that would eventually manifest itself in the current European Union Emissions Trading System (Phase 3)
The distinction between carbon taxes and permit systems can get blurred when hybrid systems are allowed. A hybrid cap-and-trade system sets limits on price movements. An upper bound on the price can be set through a "safety valve" whereby the issuing authority (e.g. the government) stands ready to issue additional allowances at a set price. A lower bound can also be set through a price floor. Recently economists have begun to explore hybrid carbon taxes where mechanisms are introduced to adjust the tax rate to ensure emission reduction targets are achieved. The economist Gilbert Metcalf has proposed a specific mechanism, the Emissions Assurance Mechanism, and the idea, in principle, has been adopted by the Climate Leadership Council in its first pillar.
A 2018 survey of leading economists found that 58% of the surveyed economists agreed with the assertion, "Carbon taxes are a better way to implement climate policy than cap-and-trade," 31% stated that they had no opinion or that it was uncertain, but none of the respondents disagreed.
Both cap-and-trade and carbon taxes give polluters a financial incentive to reduce their GHG emissions. Carbon taxes provide certainty regarding emission prices, while a cap provides certainty regarding emissions quantity. In a review study Fisher et al. concluded that the choice between an international quota (cap) system, or an international carbon tax, remained ambiguous.
Lu et al. (2012) compared a carbon tax, an emission trading, and command-and-control regulation at the industrial level. Their abstract concludes that market-based mechanisms would perform better than emission standards in achieving emission targets without affecting industrial production.
James E. Hansen argued in his book (Storms of My Grandchildren) and in an open letter to then President Obama, that carbon emissions trading would only make money for banks and hedge funds and allow 'business-as-usual' for the chief carbon-emitting industries.
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