Category Archives: Sustainable Development

Carbon Tax Explained

With the international commitment in Paris calling for the decarbonization of the global economy by the second half of this century, the task we now face is transforming that commitment into reality.

There is no magic bullet that will deliver a decarbonized, net-zero emissions economy. What is required of us stretches across all aspects of human society, from economics and technology to our relationship with each other and with nature herself.

If there is a common thread that can set in motion action on all fronts, it is arguably putting a price on carbon. In a very real sense, we already pay the cost of carbon emissions, but those costs are spread throughout society as an economic externality manifesting as damaged crops through droughts and floods, increased health care cost from heat waves or risk to communities from extreme weather and rising sea level – to name but of few of the impacts of continued and increasing carbon emissions. Quantifying a price for carbon brings the cost back to those who are responsible at the source of emissions.

Pricing carbon is about more than just climate change, it is an important step toward economic health, social justice and environmental sustainability.

How do we put a price on carbon?

Throughout this series we will explore the various mechanisms, either proposed or already implemented in some parts of the world. One of these strategies is a carbon tax, as implemented in British Columbia, Ireland, Sweden, Chile, Australia and other nations around the world.

The reflexive opposition to environmental policy initiatives in our polarized political discourse (especially here in the U.S.) is misleading and doesn’t reflect the real potential benefits of pricing carbon through a carbon tax or other potential pricing strategies. An approach actually endorsed by many conservative thinkers, a carbon tax can bring with it not only emissions reductions but increased energy efficiency and a stronger economy.

This video produced by the Carbon Tax Center introduces how a carbon tax could work to effectively reduce carbon emissions, without destroying the economy, and other “myths” as we so often hear opponents to any form of carbon mitigation or pricing.

There are many avenues we can take on our journey toward a decarbonized economy. In subsequent posts we will explore in more depth strategies for carbon pricing  and the advantages and disadvantages of each one.

This post first published in GlobalWarmingisReal.com
Featured image credit: Georgie Sharp, courtesy flickr 

Governors Announce Bipartisan Accord for a New Energy Future

On February 16, a bipartisan group of 17 governors signed the Governors’ Accord for a New Energy Future

The accord represents a joint commitment among both Democratic and Republican-led states to take action promoting clean energy, better and cleaner transportation choices, a modern electrical grid and a plan for a new energy economy.

You can read the full accord here, which states, in part:

 “American prosperity has always depended on embracing new ideas and technologies,” states the Governors’ Accord for a New Energy Future. “Embracing new energy solutions allows us to expand our economy while protecting the health of our communities and natural resources. These improvements will help secure a safe and prosperous future for our country.

“We recognize that now is the time to embrace a bold vision of the nation’s energy future, and to do so, states are once again poised to lead.”

The coalition of participating states represents 127 million Americans, providing a platform for collaboration, sharing ideas and leveraging partnerships in energy planning and policymaking.

The bipartisan partnership represents states with a diverse energy mix and policy portfolio – from Delaware, with low overall energy consumption powered primarily with natural gas, but with an unexpectedly high per-capita energy usage due its energy-intensive oil refining and chemical manufacturing industry, to Nevada, a state that imports more than 90 percent of the energy it consumes from out-of-state relying on long-distance energy transmission and working to expand its own energy grid – and all are committed to work together to “make transformational policy changes to secure a stronger energy future for their states and the nation.”

With the Accord now officially executed by state leaders, senior advisors from each state will convene to hash out initial steps to put plans into action for energy diversification, expanded sources of clean energy, a modern, resilient energy grid and cleaner transportation options.

State partnerships such as this are key to building on the momentum toward a new, resilient and clean energy future.

Image credit: Michale Kappel, courtesy flickr

Building on the Sustainable Development Goals

2015 was arguably a banner year for sustainable development. With the signing of the Paris Agreement at COP21 and adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations in September, the path is laid out for how we might develop sustainable and equitable economies across the globe.

Of course, that’s easier said that done. But tools and methods are already in place to make good on the promise.

When I was in Paris for COP21, I had the opportunity to speak with Michael Meehan, CEO of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). GRI has pioneered the methods and standards of corporate global sustainability reporting.

What we discussed in Paris, however, went far beyond that. Meehan explained how the future of GRI is in bringing the power of information and realtime data to policy, economic, social and environmental decisions throughout global organizations. Essentially “baking sustainability” into the process.

Read about sustainability “beyond the report” and the SDG Compass in my recent article for TriplePundit.