Carbon Taxes on the Move: A U.S. Step Back and Canadian Leaps Forward

Up this morning atop MIT Technology Review:

The victory of climate change-denying Republican candidate Donald Trump was one of two big setbacks for U.S. climate policy earlier this month. The other was the resounding defeat of Washington State’s Initiative 732, which sought to prove that using fees on carbon emissions to cut existing taxes could provide bipartisan appeal for what economists consider to be the most efficient mechanism to cut greenhouse gas emissions: carbon taxes.

Washington State rejected the idea of a carbon tax by 59 percent to 41. In sharp contrast, just across the world’s longest border, carbon taxes are attracting politically diverse support. Four-fifths of Canadians will live in provinces with such taxes in 2017, and in 2018 all Canadians could be paying a carbon tax…

For the story see “Canada Moves Ahead on Carbon Taxes, Leaving the U.S. Behind

A few caveats and details left on the cutting room floor:

  • The carbon trading scheme operated by California, Quebec and Ontario has a rising floor price for credits, currently set at roughly C$15, that makes it act like a carbon tax at times (like now) of soft demand for tradable credits.
  • These states and provinces are — like carbon tax innovator British Columbia — coupling their carbon pricing schemes with regulations such as restrictions on coal-fired power that drive more reductions and do so at lower political risk. For more on this (and more) see my carbon pricing explainer in Ensia from this summer.
  • Canada’s promised emissions reduction for 2030 fails, like most national commitments made at last year’s Paris climate talks, to put global emissions on a trajectory to meet the Paris Agreement’s fundamental goal: holding global warming to well below 2 degrees C.

How Canada Should Return Obama’s Oil Pipeline Punt

Late last week President Barack Obama deferred consideration of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, designed to ship Alberta petroleum to the Gulf Coast, until after next year’s U.S. elections. Obama’s move immediately sparked vows in Canada to redirect crude exports to Asian markets less angst-ridden by the environmental impacts associated with tapping Alberta’s tough, tarry petroleum. A smarter strategy would be to reduce those impacts, starting with the black mark that brought Keystone XL to national attention: oil sands crude’s bloated carbon footprint. Continue reading

California Counts the Ways to Decarbonate

Governor Schwarzenegger Takes on the FedsTrying to track California’s developments in climate change policy is a full-time job these days. Carbon-Nation has followed the state’s efforts to drive the electrification of the automobile, but this is but a scratch at the surface. California’s initiatives also include: incentives for renewable energy, taxes on high-carbon fuels, tough vehicle fuel economy standards (in the absence of real leadership from Washington), and, in partnership with other western states and British Columbia, a regional cap-and-trade system that should ratchet down industrial emissions of greenhouse gases.

This broad frontal attack on climate complacency is helping to change the politics of climate change across the U.S. and Canada. It is also driving innovation. Today, California’s Air Resources Board reviews an innovative report from its Global Warming Economic and Technology Advancement Advisory Committee that lays out no less than 55 opportunities to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The proposals span the realms of finance, transportation, industry, commerce, residential energy use, electricity and natural gas, agriculture, forestry and water policy.

Let no one say that its too late to stop climate change.

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