50 Shades of Green: The Carbon Economy

Carbon dioxide emissions contribute to global warming, so why is it that we have been so challenged in taking steps to reduce our emissions and thus our impact on climate change? One big reason is that our current economic system allows for the ‘externalization’ of costs to such a great extent that there is little immediate incentive for most folks to take action. Instead of having to pay the true cost of our activities, we are able to move those costs onto the rest of society, making the immediate impact on ourselves pretty painless. One way for us to internalize some of these costs is through the use of a carbon tax.

A carbon tax allows for a price to be set for carbon and then charged for those items, like fuel, when we purchase them. The ‘when’ is of huge import because then we can compare apples to apples—we have to pay for our carbon consumption at the time we use it, resulting in an immediate cost, rather than being able to move that cost into the future for others to have to contend with.

The carbon tax here in BC has been talked about freely of late, particularly because of our provincial election. Of the four major parties – Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and Greens, the only ones promoting the extinction of the carbon tax are the Conservatives. The other three parties have varying degrees of support with the Greens demonstrating the most progressive approach: proposing the use of significant revenues to fund sustainable change like increased transit opportunities. (As a matter of fact, the BC Green Party is supporting its candidates to measure and offset their campaigns’ carbon footprints—the first time a BC Provincial party has done so!) This is the way a carbon tax works best—tax the ‘bad’ behaviour and use the proceeds to create more opportunities for ‘good’ behaviour. This leads to less bad behaviour, lower taxes, easier access to good behaviours and, voila, lower carbon emissions and reduced impact on climate change.

Economic initiatives which internalize costs like the carbon tax create incentives for innovation to create sustainable change—again the comparing of apples to apples. As soon as we are able to reduce all of our activities to a common denominator—money—we can easily compare which activity is in our own best interest, making the choice more easily discernible and beneficial. And we can decide where to make investments at the community level based on a much clearer economic comparison.

Karin has lived, worked and played on Vancouver Island for the past 30 years. She is passionate about building resilient communities and has worked and volunteered extensively to further this interest. Karin’s formal education includes a B.Sc. from the University of Victoria and a Masters in Environmental Management at Royal Roads University.