Carbon Tax, an assessment

Petition idea: Debate the merits of a wider carbon tax (or equivalent) with revenue raised being directed back to the people or to long-term innovation investment.

Taxing carbon is one of the best ways to incentivize the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

By putting a price on carbon, emitters are confronted with the environmental cost of their actions and forced to manage their carbon output. While other policy interventions are also required, putting a price on carbon is central to reducing emissions cost-effectively.

As part of the EU, the UK is involved in a form of pricing carbon via the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS).

However 58% of emissions are out of scope of the EU ETS as they originate in transport, buildings, waste management and agriculture.

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If the UK leaves the EU there are scenarios where a Carbon Emissions Tax will be collected but only by UK stationary installations currently in the EU ETS.

Parliament needs to debate the introduction of a wider carbon emissions tax for all industries and sectors and in a way that is just for society.

Positives:

A carbon tax or similar is widely supported by economists (both those associated with right wing ideas as well as those associated with left wing ideas). It goes across political lines.

There is support from business and industry. Most notably many fossil fuel companies are supportive, but the support cross all business industries (for instance, Microsoft).

Much of the infrastructure is already in place to be able to collect such taxes.

Negatives:

A carbon tax is considered “regressive” as it impacts those on low-income more than higher income.

Areas of Debate and Mitigation

A “Carbon Dividend” could be committed to be given directly back to the UK people. This would mitigate the regressive impact. This could be means-tested to further help those on lower income. Adjustments to VAT could also be made. A graduated ramp up can also mitigate impacts.

Or, when, for instance, electricity prices go up by £100, the government could give a £100 dividend that lowers internet costs of a similar non-carbon intensive good/service.

The tax revenue could also be ear marked for innovation. As energy innovation is likely to be a vital part of transitioning to a lower carbon economy.

The tax revenue could also be ear marked for other positive long term investments such as healthcare or education or other investment which have broad support.

A border adjustment for carbon content of imports and exports may be needed to discourage free-riding by other nations.

Formation of a “climate club” as suggested by economist William Nordhaus should be explored.

A mix of all the above ideas is possible and deserves debate.

Conclusion

A comprehensive carbon tax plan should enable reduced emissions, predictability for business, and stimulate long-term investments.

There is strong support from multiple stakeholders across the socio-political divides for a more comprehensive carbon tax. This support is further strengthened by economic and academic work and popular opinion. Negative economics can be mitigated leading to an overall positive for society.

This needs proper parliamentary debate.

Selected but not-comprehensive sources

(will be updated periodically - message me if you have good sources)

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/carbon-emmisions-tax/carbon-emmisions-tax

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/13/climate/nordhaus-carbon-tax-interview.html

http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Working-paper-212-Andersson_update_March2017.pdf

http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/How-to-make-carbon-taxes-more-acceptable.pdf

https://www.clcouncil.org/

http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/carbon-tax

Nordhaus DICE model below:

and some papers: https://econpapers.repec.org/RAS/pno115.htm

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 Comments (I will add useful comments on sources or ideas to those who message me)

A near universal benefit/dividend softens the tax impact.

Means-testing in general is expensive and prone to errors, it may be better to simply give benefits widely or at least to 80 percent of people, almost universal.

Carbon price escalators have been deemed a success because it provides visibility and graduation; allowing businesses to plan.

The proceeds must be ring-fenced by law so the Treasury doesn't raid it and then split into three elements: one, which goes to everyone except the richest, another to innovation and the remainder specifically to industries that are stranded or most severely affected by anti-competitiveness from carbon tax.

Making sure the impact does not fall on the low income is important, which is why the re-distribution element is crucial.

 

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