On Monday the Climate Leadership Council announced an impressive group of new corporate and individual supporters for their “carbon dividends” plan – a version of revenue neutral carbon tax.
Eleven global corporations – including oil and gas supermajors ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, and auto maker General Motors – signed on as corporate Founding Members of the Council. The Council also announced an impressive list of individual supporters for the plan. Joining co-authors, former Reagan administration Secretaries of State and Treasury George Shultz and James Baker, are a diverse group ranging from former New York Mayor and businessman Michael Bloomberg and former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers to physicist Stephen Hawking.
The “carbon dividends” plan would impose a gradually rising carbon tax starting at $US 40 per tonne. 100% of the revenues would be refunded to taxpayers in the form of an equal per capita “carbon dividends” payment. The plan would roll back unnecessary regulations (for example, the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan) as the rising carbon price would deliver more emissions reductions without regulation. And competitiveness for American business would be protected by making the carbon tax border adjusted – it would be refunded on exports and imposed on imports.
In ad op-ed in the Washington Post, George Shultz and Larry Summers stated that this plan “can strengthen the U.S. economy in ways highly valued by both the left and right and simultaneously spur global efforts to address climate change. Adopting a carbon dividend approach would pay huge dividends for the global climate, the U.S. economy and U.S. leadership in the world.”
While ExxonMobil has previously stated that it would support a revenue neutral carbon tax, this represents the first time that the world’s largest oil company has supported a specific plan. And it shows, once again, that despite the Trump Administration’s intended withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, that there is considerable support from business, state and local governments, and important political voices in both the Republican and Democratic parties for further climate action. In fact, a new poll shows that Americans oppose Trump’s decision to leave Paris by a 46% to 29% margin.
Meanwhile groups like the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which is proposing a fee and dividend proposal very similar to the Shultz-Baker plan, has brought together a 42-member Climate Solutions Caucus in congress – with equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats, to work on bipartisan proposals to combat climate change. In a time when American politics is more divided than ever, the fact that groups like the Climate Leadership Council and Citizens’ Climate Lobby can bring politicians together across the aisle to tackle climate change is very impressive.
So climate action may be coming in the United States despite the Trump Administration. And the leading proposal to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions while strengthening the economy is a revenue neutral carbon tax that refunds the money directly to households.