The IMF thinks carbon taxes will stop the climate crisis. That's a terrible idea

(The Guardian, 12 Oct 2019) The IMF’s proposed $75-per-ton tax would exacerbate rampant inequality. There are better ways to fund decarbonization.

A well-circulated statistic this week, from a new book by the University of California, Berkeley, economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, shows that the richest 400 families in the United States now pay a lower tax rate than the bottom 50% of families. Those 400 families – the 0.01% – own more wealth than 60% of households in the US. The top 0.1% own more than 80%. Rates for the top 0.01% and the bottom 50% have been creeping closer since 1960. Also this week, the Guardian’s polluters series found that just 20 private and state-owned fossil fuel producers are responsible for 35% of manmade carbon dioxide and methane emissions over a similar period.

On Thursday, the IMF suggested a $75-per-ton global carbon tax is the most efficient way to fight greenhouse gas emissions and keep warming below 2C. The tax is, if anything, far too low.

Mind, actual carbon prices worldwide average about $8 per ton, according to the OECD. And proposals for far lower carbon taxes in the US have been reliably shot down, albeit in no small part thanks to significant industry lobbying. Even this modest amount would raise energy prices in the US by 53%, since fossil fuel companies will pass the cost of the tax directly through to consumers. While it does consider the possibility of the tax funding clean energy investments or the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the IMF – perhaps most famous for enforcing brutal austerity on to small debtor nations – also proposes using revenue generated by the tax in wealthy G20 nations to lower income taxes, “reduce fiscal deficits, or pay an equal dividend to the whole population”, so members of the top 0.01% are cut the same check as those in the bottom 50%.

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The Guardian, 12 Oct 2019: The IMF thinks carbon taxes will stop the climate crisis. That's a terrible idea