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US Conservatives Propose Carbon Tax to Fight Climate Change

  • VOA News

Former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker speaks about a plan to repeal and replace the Clean Power Plan at the National Press Club in Washington, Feb. 8, 2017.

A group of conservative thinkers led by leaders from the Reagan and Bush administrations have proposed what they are calling a "Conservative Answer to Climate Change."

The group, including two former U.S. secretaries of state - James Baker and George Shultz - held a press conference Wednesday in Washington to unveil its plan.

Confronting the threat

The plan, available online, opens with a simple admission: "the risks associated with future warmings are so severe that they should be hedged."

Team members were also willing to openly call out their Republican colleagues for refusing to confront the issue.

"For too long," the group says, "many Republicans have looked the other way, forfeiting the policy initiative to those who favor growth-inhibiting command-and-control regulations, and fostering a needless climate divide between the GOP and the scientific, business, military, religious, civic and international mainstream."

Looking to regain that initiative, the team unveiled its plan which centers around four pillars. The first pillar is an old idea made new again: a carbon tax.

It's just what it says it is - a tax on planet warming emissions from oil, coal and natural gas.

FILE - А plume of smoke billows from the coal-fired Merrimack Station in Bow, New Hampshire, Jan. 20, 2015. Conservative thinkers in the U.S. suggest fighting climate change through the introduction of a tax on carbon emissions.
FILE - А plume of smoke billows from the coal-fired Merrimack Station in Bow, New Hampshire, Jan. 20, 2015. Conservative thinkers in the U.S. suggest fighting climate change through the introduction of a tax on carbon emissions.

In this case, the team is suggesting a tax on carbon starting at $40 for roughly every metric ton of emissions.

The second pillar demands that any money made off of that tax be sent directly to U.S. consumers. And they do mean directly, by way of "dividend checks, direct deposits or contributions to their individual retirement accounts."

The third pillar sets out the way we deal with the world. It looks to punish polluters by that same carbon tax on countries that are big polluters. Any money made from that tariff would go directly to American citizens.

And once the plan is in place, the fourth pillar kicks in: An end to "the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority over carbon dioxide emissions ... including an outright repeal of the Clean Power Plan."

Devil in the details

It sounds simple. But it is also a tax. The Trump administration and the Republican majorities in the House and the Senate are looking to cut taxes, not raise them. So far, there has been little reaction from Capitol Hill or the White House.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about the plan and would only say: “we have nothing to announce on that.”

And some environmental groups, while backing a carbon tax in general, are less excited about the prospect of abandoning the progress made during the last administration.

The Natural Resources Defense Council put out a statement that a carbon tax alone won't solve the problem.

But whether it succeeds or not, one of the real goals is to give conservatives a chance to get beyond what many see as their history of climate change denial. "...this is an opportunity to demonstrate the power of the conservative canon by offering a more effective, equitable and popular climate policy based on free markets, smaller government and dividends for all Americans."

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