Oct 2, 2019

Study suggests a new structure for a carbon tax

Photo: Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images)

A new peer-reviewed paper cuts against the grain by concluding that the most effective carbon tax structure should start high and decline over time.

Why it matters: It breaks with carbon tax bills floating around Congress and other proposals that begin modestly and then escalate.

What they found: The paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal offers several reasons for flipping the script.

  • Uncertainty around just how bad damage from climate change could be makes strong near-term steps vital.
  • The high costs of delaying action.
  • Falling costs of cutting emissions over time as technology improves.

The big picture: The paper's modeling suggests an optimal price would begin at well over $100-per-ton (or even much higher), rise for a few years, and then fall.

"[P]roperly taking climate uncertainty into account leads to the conclusion that we need to take stronger action today to give us breathing room in the event that the planet turns out to be more fragile than current models predict."
— Kent Daniel, lead author and professor at Columbia Business School, per statement

Where it stands: It's very different than what's out there now.

  • The nonprofit Climate Leadership Council, which includes Big Oil backers, is circulating a plan that starts at $40-per-ton of CO2 and rises annually.
  • A Columbia University energy think tank has a helpful tally of Capitol Hill plans that all start with far lower CO2 prices than the PNAS paper suggests.

But, but, but: "Treat carbon in the atmosphere like an asset (with negative payoffs) and apply Financial Economics 101, and its price appears to jump by quite a bit over typically modeled prices," PNAS co-author Gernot Wagner tells me.

Go deeper: Carbon tax campaign unveils new details and backers

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The IMF wants major carbon taxes to fight climate change

IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The International Monetary Fund is calling on major greenhouse gas-emitting countries to implement carbon taxes that reach $75-per-ton by 2030 to bolster today's "inadequate" responses to climate change.

Why it matters: Their new report says the window for keeping temperature rise to manageable levels is "closing rapidly" and that "limiting global warming to 2°C or less requires policy measures on an ambitious scale."

Go deeperArrowOct 11, 2019

BP invests $5 million in forest carbon offsets firm Finite Carbon

Photo: Lance King/Getty Images

BP said Friday that its venture capital arm is investing $5 million in a company that specializes in offsetting carbon emissions through forest projects.

Why it matters: It's the latest example of oil giants using their venture arms to stake companies with tech and products designed to fight climate change.

Go deeperArrowOct 25, 2019

Big oil R&D in clean tech is hard to pin down

Data: BloombergNEF; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

How much research and development big oil companies are putting into cleantech is one of the few concrete metrics to gauge the industry’s varying shifts toward cleaner energy.

Between the lines: Pinning that figure down is tricky because many companies don’t disclose and even those that do use definitions that vary widely for what constitutes cleaner energy or low-carbon.

Go deeperArrowOct 15, 2019