I admit that I’m uncertain as to which is the best way to ‘price carbon’ for effective carbon emission reductions to actually occur. This week, our glorious PM announced the withdrawal of her government’s support for many of the good greenhouse gas initiatives introduced by it’s former leader to help fund the flood rebuilding program with the excuse, “There is complete consensus that the most efficient way to reduce carbon is to price carbon. Some of these policies are less efficient than a carbon price and will no longer be necessary – others will be better delayed until a carbon price’s full effects are felt.”
So, which way is better, a carbon tax or carbon credits? Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia’s entry on this subject:
Carbon credits and carbon taxes each have their advantages and disadvantages. Credits were chosen by the signatories to the Kyoto Protocol as an alternative to Carbon taxes. A criticism of tax-raising schemes is that they are frequently not hypothecated, and so some or all of the taxation raised by a government would be applied based on what the particular nation’s government deems most fitting. However, some would argue that carbon trading is based around creating a lucrative artificial market, and, handled by free market enterprises as it is, carbon trading is not necessarily a focused or easily regulated solution.
By treating emissions as a market commodity some proponents insist it becomes easier for businesses to understand and manage their activities, while economists and traders can attempt to predict future pricing using market theories. Thus the main advantages of a tradeable carbon credit over a carbon tax are argued to be:
* the price may be more likely to be perceived as fair by those paying it. Investors in credits may have more control over their own costs.
* the flexible mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol help to ensure that all investment goes into genuine sustainable carbon reduction schemes through an internationally agreed validation process.
* some proponents state that if correctly implemented a target level of emission reductions may somehow be achieved with more certainty, while under a tax the actual emissions might vary over time.
* it may provide a framework for rewarding people or companies who plant trees or otherwise meet standards exclusively recognized as “green.”
The advantages of a carbon tax are argued to be:
* possibly less complex, expensive, and time-consuming to implement. This advantage is especially great when applied to markets like gasoline or home heating oil.
* perhaps some reduced risk of certain types of cheating, though under both credits and taxes, emissions must be verified.
* reduced incentives for companies to delay efficiency improvements prior to the establishment of the baseline if credits are distributed in proportion to past emissions.
* when credits are grandfathered, this puts new or growing companies at a disadvantage relative to more established companies.
* allows for more centralized handling of acquired gains
* worth of carbon is stabilized by government regulation rather than market fluctuations. Poor market conditions and weak investor interest have a lessened impact on taxation as opposed to carbon trading.
Creating real carbon credits
The principle of Supplementarity within the Kyoto Protocol means that internal abatement of emissions should take precedence before a country buys in carbon credits. However it also established the Clean Development Mechanism as a Flexible Mechanism by which capped entities could develop real, measurable, permanent emissions reductions voluntarily in sectors outside the cap. Many criticisms of carbon credits stem from the fact that establishing that an emission of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas has truly been reduced involves a complex process. This process has evolved as the concept of a carbon project has been refined over the past 10 years.
The first step in determining whether or not a carbon project has legitimately led to the reduction of real, measurable, permanent emissions is understanding the CDM methodology process. This is the process by which project sponsors submit, through a Designated Operational Entity (DOE), their concepts for emissions reduction creation. The CDM Executive Board, with the CDM Methodology Panel and their expert advisors, review each project and decide how and if they do indeed result in reductions that are additional.
OK, folks, let the debate continue ……..