How to make a carbon tax popular? Give the proceeds to the people

(The Guardian, 4 Dec 2018) A groundbreaking Canadian scheme that rewards green living holds lessons for world leaders wrangling over carbon emissions at the UN summit in Poland.

Two decades ago, Canada’s westernmost province was in the midst of environmental and economic calamity. A small beetle was devouring large swathes of the region’s valuable pine forests, leaving millions of trees dead as infestation spread. The government waited anxiously for cold winters – which would kill the beetles – but year after year the cold never came.

By 2008 the decimation of the forests, along with a series of intense storms walloping the province, prompted British Columbia to take action on climate change. The provincial government introduced a carbon tax, putting a price on fossil fuel emissions. And, crucially, all the money raised was returned to the people in tax cuts.

“It was groundbreaking,” said Karen Tam Wu of the Pembina Institute, an environmental thinktank. “It was the first one in the world that was revenue neutral.”

A decade later, as climate scientists and policymakers converge on UN talks in Katowice, Poland, urgently seek mechanisms to rein in carbon emissions in a bid to halt the inexorable rise of global temperatures, the British Columbia experiment with the tax is setting an example to others.

Economists and environmentalists have voiced support for it; the World Bank has called it a “textbook” way of developing environmental policy. Earlier in October, the economist William Nordhaus, winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for economics, threw his support behind the British Columbia model as an ideal model for export to other economies.

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The Guardian, 4 Dec 2018: How to make a carbon tax popular? Give the proceeds to the people