Friday, May 23, 2008

Is a carbon tax coming?

The concept of a carbon emissions cap-and-trade system, especially for big business in the US, has been discussed for years. But in recent months, the idea of creating firm, regulatory guidelines has picked up steam.

All three major presidential candidates support a cap-and-trade system for the US in the not-so-distant future. It could be based on the cap-and-trade system currently working in Europe, or could be something closer to Al Gore’s proposed carbon tax plan.

Already, many companies are participating in the voluntary carbon credit market, through exchanges such as the Chicago Climate Exchange. These efforts are purely voluntary for now, and done to support corporate sustainability/carbon-neutral goals and/or to leverage for marketing purposes.

But earlier this week, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District voted to start charging businesses in nine San Francisco Bay Area counties a 4.4 cents-per-ton tax for the carbon dioxide they’re responsible for emitting.

California has been a leader in seeking government-led solutions to carbon emissions, and could very well mandate broader carbon caps in advance of a national system. Governor Schwarzenegger signed a law back in 2006 mandating several global warming initiatives that are still in development or underway.

There’s plenty left to do to make any one of these systems work, of course. We need a standard way to measure and validate carbon emissions, for example, plus a means of endorsing and/or certifying means by which those emissions can be reduced.

But if developments in the Bay Area this week come to fruition, it should be an interesting experiment watched closely by not only other local jurisdictions, but state and federal regulators as well. If nothing else, it will get more people talking about how to solve the problem, and will get us closer to a solution with real teeth and impact nationwide.

Photo Credit: New York Times

No comments: