Commentary from Sandra Levine, Senior Attorney for the Vermont Conservation Law Foundation, a member of Energy Independent Vermont. In this video from Feb 2016, Sandra talked about the rationale for a carbon tax, and how a price on carbon will work. The commentary follows.
The U.S.’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord raises the stakes for states, cities and businesses to lead.
The travesty of the U.S. federal government turning its back on climate science and effective solutions creates a big hole to fill.
Across Vermont and across the country, it is heartening to see renewed commitment and enthusiasm spurring innovation and action to keep the U.S. on track to meeting its climate commitments.
Among the landscape of opportunities, growing support is emerging for one very just and practical climate solution: pricing carbon pollution. At the recent launch of Vermont Climate Pledge Coalition in Burlington, Ashley Orgain from Seventh Generation was greeted with the loudest applause when she made the business case for a carbon pollution tax. As a Vermont business committed to a healthy planet, Seventh Generation has already put in place an internal price on carbon, and uses the money to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across its business operations. But as she noted, businesses alone cannot do all the work. It is time for public policy to match and foster the commitment of businesses and individuals.
Major businesses – many with connections to Vermont – are also stepping up their support for pricing carbon.
They are advancing a carbon price as a solution that bridges partisan divides. They are calling for a rising carbon tax with all the revenue refunded as a way to embody conservative principles of the free market and limited government to strengthen the economy and protect the environment. There is some real business heft behind this effort. Major oil companies, like BP, ExxonMobil and Shell, as well as General Motors, PepsiCo, Unilever and Total, are among the plan’s proponents. They have business interests in Vermont. The oil companies supply most of the gas stations in the state, GM sells many cars and trucks in Vermont, Pepsi products are in most stores and restaurants, Unilever is the parent company of Vermont icons Seventh Generation and Ben & Jerry’s, and Total is the supplier for a large Vermont solar provider.
Vermont’s policies and actions need to match our goals and aspirations.”
Vermont has its own climate goals. A Vermont commitment to the Paris Accord should take the necessary steps to make real progress – every year – toward meeting these goals. That’s what commitment to tackling climate change demands. Over the past decade, Vermont has expanded renewable energy and energy efficiency, but much, much more is needed if we are actually going to reach our statutory goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2028 and meet 90 percent of our energy needs with renewable sources by 2050.
Vermont’s policies and actions need to match our goals and aspirations. A carbon pollution tax in Vermont is one reasonable, just and practical solution that goes a long way to meeting our climate goals. As big businesses recognize, a carbon tax is a solution that spans political divides and strengthens the economy — especially in Vermont, which produces no fossil fuels. By taxing the fuels that produce pollution and cutting other taxes or paying dividends back to Vermonters, incentives to reduce pollution replace money wasted. And the tax cuts or dividends allow Vermonters to spend the money where they need it most.
The broad and growing support for a carbon pollution tax can deliver real results for Vermont.
Businesses are already standing up, taking action and calling for broader policy changes. Our legislators and state leaders must also support stronger action, including a carbon pollution tax. Vermont communities are no strangers to the devastating impacts of climate change. Instead of straining our local budgets to clean up after the next disaster, Vermont can instead tackle inaction at the federal level and put our tax policy to good use fighting pollution.
Watch a short presentation
on how carbon taxes work