Australia has not abandoned its commitment to reducing climate-warming emissions. And carbon tax systems, while rare and rife with controversy, retain a firm foothold in a number of advanced economies. http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/07/25/business/global/a-carbon-tax-by-any-other-name.html In Australia, the government’s decision entails a change of methodology. By next July, the country will shift from its controversial carbon tax system to a cap-and-trade system, which is a different way of limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Australia had already planned to make the shift in July 2015 and will now accelerate the changeover by a year.
Calling a policy a ‘tax’ certainly makes it difficult to sell it to the community,”
Carbon taxes control emissions by establishing a fixed price that polluters must pay. High prices discourage pollution. By contrast, cap-and-trade systems limit amounts of carbon emissions, leaving the market to determine the price for polluting.
Carbon taxes, with their fixed prices, are easier to implement than cap-and-trade systems, noted Janet Milne, director of the Environmental Tax Policy Institute at Vermont Law School.
Switching to the cap-and-trade system will allow Australian industries to pay less to reduce pollution. That is because the trading system, unlike the tax, will link into a similar system in Europe. In Europe, abundant pollution permits have dramatically reduced the market price of carbon emissions. So Australian industries will be able to take advantage of those low prices to access the pollution credits more cheaply, and ahead of schedule.
That means, of course, that it is easier and cheaper for Australian industries to pollute. Christine Milne, leader of the Australian Greens, who is not related to Janet Milne, described Europe’s carbon prices as “far too low to drive pollution cuts or clean-energy growth.”
Climate experts say there is still an appetite for carbon taxes in parts of the world. Janet Milne, of Vermont Law School, points out that Ireland’s carbon tax — born partly of the need for additional government revenue — is relatively new. So are carbon taxes in Japan. Switzerland recently announced that it would increase its carbon tax next year, and South Africa plans to introduce a carbon tax system in 2015.
Lithuania, which recently assumed the presidency of the Council of the European Union, has said it plans to revive discussion of a stalled 2011 proposal to harmonize energy taxation across the Continent.
“Given the current diversity of views on future E.U. climate policy among member states, I would be surprised to see any movement towards significantly higher energy taxes.”
Avoiding the term “carbon tax” may make such policies a bit easier.
“The opposition is arguing that the new system will still be effectively a tax by another name. But the political effect of their arguments is diminished.”