The beauty of a referendum is that there are often only two answers, “yes” and “no”. What we have at the Paris Climate Change convention is the exact opposite of a referendum: there are far too many questions, far too many proposals and far too many possible answers. Rather than debate who should be allowed to emit what and why, I would like to propose a very simple but small step that I think takes us in the right direction. It’s called #OneEuroCarbon and here is what each state would agree to.
Number 1: States collect a tax of €1 per tonne of carbon on gasoline, diesel, coal, gas and kerosene sold in the state.
Number 2: States return the money they collect as an income tax credit to the 1% of people in their state with the lowest income.
Number 3: States give a soft commitment to reviewing this system and upping these numbers in a few years (e.g. to a €5 per tonne tax to be provided as an income tax credit to the 5% of people with the lowest income).
The first part is a tiny but important step in the direction of taxing carbon. Taxing carbon is good because, like tax on cigarettes it’s a simple way to encourage us to reduce doing what’s unhealthy.
The second part is good for a few reasons: 1) it reduces inequality, which is clearly a big issue we can rally around 2) it replaces income tax, which is great because income tax serves to reduce employment.
The third part is good because it gives us something realistic to aim for.
Look, there are far too many interests involved to do anything at the conference that will have a real economic effect – like a carbon tax of €50 per tonne might. Better to focus on taking an administrative step in the right direction. A €1 per tonne tax won’t have a noticeable on anyone, but this first administrative step, especially if widely agreed upon, could give huge hope for saving our climate and huge hope to the poorest 1% who are being taxed for something we really should encourage (i.e. good work).