When politicians talk about carbon taxes, they are usually talking about retail sales taxes. This seems like a very inefficient way to limit carbon emissions. Why not tax carbon at the mine entrance or the well head? Of course, we know the answer.
Environmentally-motivated taxes are a good idea for a number of reasons. Taxation is a tool which governments are accustomed to using. Taxes can motivate behaviour change, but they leave it up to the individual or business to decide how to change. Properly applied, environmental taxes can encourage innovation as well as conservation.
Of course, there is opposition to any tax from affected vested interests — to enact the measures I have suggested would require a government that is genuinely concerned about future generations of all life.
There are also other concerns about taxes, such as their overall effect on the economy and their role in promoting social justice and a fair distribution of wealth. These factors, along with the effects on ecological behaviour, need to be considered with any taxation measure.
That’s more than enough about taxes. I realize that the measures suggested here are a long way from solving the ecological crisis or addressing its underlying causes. But taxation provides a policy tool that can reduce the damage we are doing to the planet without unduly disrupting economic life or personal liberty. Environmental taxes can perhaps buy time while we work out real solutions.