Carbon credits and carbon taxes each have their advantages and disadvantages.
Credits were chosen by the signatories to the Kyoto Protocol as an alternative to Carbon taxes. A criticism of tax-raising schemes is that they are frequently not hypothecated, and so some or all of the taxation raised by a government would be applied based on what the particular nation’s government deems most fitting.
However, some would argue that carbon trading is based around creating a lucrative artificial market, and, handled by free market enterprises as it is, carbon trading is not necessarily a focused or easily regulated solution.
By treating emissions as a market commodity some proponents insist it becomes easier for businesses to understand and manage their activities, while economists and traders can attempt to predict future pricing using market theories.
Thus the main advantages of a tradeable carbon credit over a carbon tax are argued to be:
- the price may be more likely to be perceived as fair by those paying it. Investors in credits may have more control over their own costs.
- the flexible mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol help to ensure that all investment goes into genuine sustainable carbon reduction schemes through an internationally agreed validation process.
- some proponents state that if correctly implemented a target level of emission reductions may somehow be achieved with more certainty, while under a tax the actual emissions might vary over time.
- it may provide a framework for rewarding people or companies who plant trees or otherwise meet standards exclusively recognized as “green.”
The advantages of a carbon tax are argued to be:
- possibly less complex, expensive, and time-consuming to implement. This advantage is especially great when applied to markets like gasoline or home heating oil.
- perhaps some reduced risk of certain types of cheating, though under both credits and taxes, emissions must be verified.
- reduced incentives for companies to delay efficiency improvements prior to the establishment of the baseline if credits are distributed in proportion to past emissions.
- when credits are grandfathered, this puts new or growing companies at a disadvantage relative to more established companies.
- allows for more centralized handling of acquired gains
- worth of carbon is stabilized by government regulation rather than market fluctuations. Poor market conditions and weak investor interest have a lessened impact on taxation as opposed to carbon trading.
British Columbia is Canada’s third largest province (estimated 2015 population of 4.7 million). Its carbon tax is straightforward and transparent in both administration and revenue treatment, and it easily qualifies as the most significant carbon tax in the Western Hemisphere.
British Columbia inaugurated its carbon tax on July 1, 2008 at a rate of $10 (Canadian) per metric ton (“tonne”) of carbon dioxide. The tax incremented by $5/tonne annually, reaching its current level of $30 per tonne of CO2 in July 2012. At the U.S.-Canadian dollar exchange rate (1.00/0.75) in November 2015, and converting from tonnes to short tons, the provincial tax now equates to approximately $20.40 (U.S.) per short ton of CO2.
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