The Carbon Tax Center was founded in 2007 on the belief that the most direct path to decarbonize the world economy lay in enacting a robust U.S. carbon tax and replicating this policy across the globe.
A dozen years on, we are expanding our program around a new synthesis: a Green New Deal funded by taxes on extreme wealth — “taxing inequality,” you could say — and supported by a revenue-neutral carbon tax such as the fee-and-dividend approach espoused by Citizens Climate Lobby.
Here’s why: After decades of denialism by the right and antipathy from the left, we have reached a point where, standing alone, a carbon tax is too fraught politically and too weak economically to serve as the centerpiece of U.S. climate policy. We now believe that the path to decarbonizing the U.S. economy lies in a Green New Deal-inspired infrastructure and investment program funded by taxes on extreme wealth and supported by a carbon tax.
CTC envisions a three-part program to accomplish this:
- A Green New Deal plan investing $10 to $20 trillion over a 10-year period to develop the infrastructure, industrial capability, and consumer incentives to decarbonize the U.S. energy system within several decades.
- New taxes on extreme wealth and financial transactions, supplemented by increases in estate taxes, marginal income tax rates, capital gains and corporate taxes, to generate, from the wealthiest American households, the estimated $10 trillion or more needed to pay for the Green New Deal energy programs.
- A rising charge on carbon emissions from fossil fuels that supports the Green New Deal energy programs by shortening payback periods for green investment and inculcating energy efficiency and conservation throughout American society.
Our Program Is Unique and Synergistic
Although others have advanced the three individual elements of our program, none have proposed them in combination. Our integrated treatment offers synergistic political and economic benefits:
- Funding the Green New Deal through wealth taxes obviates the need to invest the carbon tax revenues, allowing the carbon tax to be revenue-neutral and thus more politically palatable.
- Assigning the proceeds of the wealth tax to the Green New Deal – a program to preserve the climate and save society – undercuts the argument that confiscating the super-wealthy’s vast fortunes is purely retributive.
- Tying the carbon tax to taxes on extreme wealth connects carbon taxing to its radical roots, making it more palatable to the left.
- Taxing extreme wealth limits the ability of the super-wealthy to maintain their political contributions, think tanks and other channels of influence that are stifling not only climate action but other endeavors to reform politics and society.
This redirection is not an abandonment of carbon taxing. Far from it. Rather, we intend to situate carbon taxes in a broader framework that is suited to both the political dynamics and the climate emergency that will characterize the new decade, and beyond.
CO2-coin logo courtesy of Tommaso Sansone.
Click here for a longer and more recent post outlining how we came to embrace this new synthesis.