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Carbon tax seen as best way to slow global warming

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Timothy Gardner
Friday, October 10, 2008

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Climate taxes, not cap and trade markets alone, will lead to the vast technological changes the world’s energy system needs to fight global warming, a top U.S. economist said on Thursday.

Cap and trade has emerged as the dominant attempt to slow global warming. Global deals in permits to emit greenhouse gas emissions have hit nearly $65 billion a year. The European Union, under the Kyoto Protocol, has embraced cap and trade since 2005 and voluntary markets have developed in the United States, the developed world’s top carbon polluter.

But a straight carbon tax on energy production — at an oil wellhead or refinery for instance — would be simpler and cheaper than putting a cap on tens of thousands of polluters, Jeffrey Sachs, a special advisor to the U.N. secretary general and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University told a panel on Thursday.


As the world prepares to form a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol by the end of next year, focus is sharpening on how well cap and trade markets are fighting emissions.

Carbon taxes would quickly cut emissions across all sectors of the economy, including vehicles and manufacturing, said Sachs. It could also be more efficient than spreading the trade of permits across the financial system.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

“Having a lot of people engineer financial instruments for carbon when there are much more direct ways to do this strikes me as not really a great investment,” Sachs said.

“I’m also not so keen on sending our best and brightest off to do more financial engineering,” he said. “I think the kind of (financial) meltdown we have right is a little bit of an example of how we’ve taken a generation of young people and put them in tasks that don’t really solve social problems.”

Yvo de Boer, the U.N. climate chief, told the panel he doubted voters in the United States and other countries would accept new taxes.


This article was posted: Friday, October 10, 2008 at 12:47 pm

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