Talking Climate Change with the East Shore Unitarian Church
This Conversation is adapted from correspondence with the Climate Action Ministry at East Shore Unitarian Church.
Climate Action Ministry: “We are very concerned about the climate change effects of fossil fuels extraction and consumption. On a “stand alone” basis, would vote FOR or AGAINST a legislative bill for a Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax, as defined below?”
Defined: Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax-This is a tax based on greenhouse gas emissions generated from burning fuels. As carbon tax revenues are collected, other taxes are reduced so that the overall government tax revenues remain unchanged. The tax per ton of carbon dioxide starts low and is gradually raised in successive years. A special tax credit is given to qualifying low-income individuals and families who pay a disproportionately higher percentage of the carbon fuels tax. Sweden implemented such a tax approach in 1995. British Columbia did so in 2008. Both economies have been thriving with constantly growing GDP since implementing a carbon tax.
Brendan Woodward: “I am opposed to a Carbon Tax and would vote against it.”
Climate Action Ministry: “On a “stand alone” basis, would you vote FOR or AGAINST a legislative bill for a Fossil Fuel Fee with Citizen Dividend, as defined below?”
Defined: Fossil Fuel Fee with Citizen Dividend-A government imposed fee on fossil fuels based on the amount of CO2 that the fuel releases when burned. The fee is collected at the earliest point of entry into the economy, such as a well, a mine or a port of entry. Fee revenues are returned to citizen households. The fee would start low and gradually increase each year to deter use of fossil fuels over time. Supporters contend that, because not everyone uses the same amount of carbon, the majority of citizen households (about 66 percent) are estimated to earn back as much or more than they pay in increased costs. Supporters also say that research shows this solution does not generally burden lower-income households with extra cost.
Brendan Woodward: “I am opposed to the concept of a fossil fuel fee and any fee system that makes fuel more expensive in order to reduce CO2 emissions. I would vote against this legislation.”
Climate Action Ministry: “On a “stand alone” basis, would vote FOR or AGAINST a legislative bill for a Cap and Trade System, as defined below?”
Defined: Cap and Trade System- Government sets a limit or “cap” on total carbon dioxide emissions and distributes or sells permits or allowances to CO2 polluting entities. Trading occurs when companies with surplus CO2 allotments sell their surplus to other companies with high emissions who feel that they need more than their CO2 allotment. The total allowable CO2 “cap” in the system would be reduced over time, which would drive up the market cost for permits and deter future CO2 emissions. Parts of the European Union and recently the State of California have implemented this approach to reducing greenhouse gases. A similar approach was used successfully in the U.S. to reduce toxic sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions, which cause acid rain. Some economists contend that this approach is more administratively burdensome for governments than the Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax or than the Fossil Fuel Fee and Dividend approach.
Brendan Woodward: “I am opposed to any fee system that makes fuel more expensive in order to reduce CO2 emissions, however a Cap and Trade System that recognized all greenhouse gasses-not just CO2-and has a robust system for exchanging permits and offsetting would not function in this way by penalizing people in order to decrease CO2. I would vote in favor of this type of climate change legislation.”
Climate Action Ministry: “Would you elaborate on your support of Cap and Trade as opposed to these other policies?”
Brendan Woodward: “Sure. The reason is that Cap and Trade is the only climate change regime that both directly incentivizes GHG reductions, and puts policy makers in direct control of emission reductions (within their scope of their jurisdiction of course).
All fee and tax policies start and end as penalties. They do not create a market where people can creatively innovate, and entrepreneurs can invent lower cost solutions for reducing greenhouse gasses. If they reduce greenhouse gasses at all, it is only because they punish people for carrying on as they have and using fossil fuels. Further, they (carbon tax/ carbon fees) also do nothing to assist and guide the development of poor countries that are increasing fossil fuel consumption.
In a Cap and Trade market, these lowtech, high-polluting areas in the third world receive new investment and real reduced net GHG going forward– unlike fee/tax ideas. Cap and trade, properly implemented, is the only regime that can achieve this kind of long term sustainability where green development is also incentivized, at the same time that it is economically speaking “efficient”.
I hope my brief explanation is adequate…Suffice to say, I am vehemently opposed to Tax/Fee regimes and believe they will mostly result in new financial burdens for people just trying to live their lives, and have dubious mechanism for achieving any measurable environmental benefit.
A little more background for your ministry: In 2006, I was one of the first members of the Chicago Climate Exchange to receive approval for a forestry carbon sequestration project in the United States. This concept (offsetting) is a very useful feature of cap and trade, which I am also very passionate about because it is based on a free market bottom up, versus top-down government driven solution. This article from an article by Danny Westneat in the Seattle Times has some more details about my work for environmental conservation in the Republican party.”