Amid the frenzy over the border wall, the 2020 Democratic presidential nominees, and the growing suspicion that the President of the United States is not-so-subtly taking orders from Russia, it’s entirely excusable should you have missed the legislation reintroduced in the House of Representatives last week that, if more of us begin paying attention, has the potential to reframe the entire mainstream discussion around climate change policy.
That bill is the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA): the first bipartisan carbon pricing proposal since 2010. Originally introduced in November 2018, the bill is led by two Florida congressmen, Democrat Ted Deutch and Republican Francis Rooney, and is co-sponsored by ten representatives from five states, (CA, GA, MN, IL, and FL). But the bill is more than symbolic, or even incremental – in other words, more than merely the result of a compromise between those arguing in favor of and against a carbon tax.
The bill is substantive! It calls for a $15 per ton tax on carbon beginning in 2019 that would increase $10 per ton each year, bringing the price to $125 per ton by 2030, and curbing emissions 90% by 2050. All revenue would be returned to taxpayers in the form of rebates. For comparison, Sweden’s carbon tax, the highest in the world, is $139 per ton; France’s $55 per ton; Denmark’s $29 per ton; and Japan’s $3 per ton, (all figures as of May 2018).
It’s also telling to compare this to the carbon tax proposal put forth by Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo last summer. Curbelo proposed a $24 per ton carbon tax that would increase 2% annually above inflation, reaching only about $30 per ton by 2030, almost $100 per ton less than the EICDA. Furthermore, the vast majority of revenue (71.6%) generated from Curbelo’s tax would go towards highway infrastructure, a political compromise that, by making life easier for cars, undermines the goal of reducing emissions.
But whether you’re in favor of the EICDA, or think it’s too ambitious, or not ambitious enough, is ultimately beside the point. What matters, rather, is that we begin discussing climate change solutions, such as possible carbon taxes, in non-binary terms. To tax, or not to tax: that is not the question! Rather, in a world where more than 40 countries are already subject to national carbon pricing schemes, including 27 carbon taxes, and given that the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report insists on carbon taxes of $135 and $5,500 per ton by 2030(!), the discussion that Americans should be having about a carbon tax is: how much?
And it all starts with being aware that there is a discussion to be had at all.