It’s time for states to save the planet: State-level carbon taxes offer a path to the ultimate climate solution.

04/26/2017 08:32 am ET
Our report identifies states with the brightest carbon tax prospects.
Our report identifies states with the brightest carbon tax prospects.

The Carbon Tax Center is out with a new report timed to the surging climate movement. We surveyed all 50 U.S. states (and Washington, DC) to identify the ones with the most favorable conditions for enacting a statewide carbon tax. Joining the report is a toolkit to help advocates push for a carbon tax in their state.

Campaigns for state carbon taxes educate the public and advance the idea on the policy map. A carbon tax in one or more states will create facts on the ground that can appeal to Left and Right alike and upend the climate stalemate.

The world’s leading climate experts agree that putting a price on carbon emissions is essential for slowing and eventually stopping global warming. The artificial marketplace advantage of unpriced carbon pollution has helped coal, oil and gas gain a stranglehold over our economic system and social structures. Charging these fuels for their climate damage is the fastest path to the clean energy future that we need to protect our cities, coasts and civilization from climate devastation.

Enacting a carbon tax in a single state can be a gateway toward the ultimate remedy: a national carbon tax. Look at Canada, where a successful carbon tax in British Columbia, that country’s third largest province, prompted Prime Minister Trudeau to commit the nation to carbon pricing starting next year.

None of the world’s five top emitters — China, United States, Russia, India, Japan — has a carbon tax covering even a province or state. Yet the grassroots movement to end the fossil fuel era has never been stronger, as evidenced by last weekend’s Marches for Science and the anticipated massive April 29 People’s Climate March.

Below are thumbnails of the eight states we determined have the best prospects for enacting carbon taxes. Our map shows another six states with carbon tax “potential” along with eleven more where only one barrier (e.g., an apparently legal impediment) stands in the way.

Residents of these states — indeed, residents of all states — must speak up, advocate, and demand that their lawmakers take action; in many states citizens can also act directly through ballot measures. Our report and toolkit explain where, why and how.

The Eight Strongest Prospects For State Carbon Taxes (listed alphabetically)

Connecticut

  • Low industrial-sector emissions
  • Climate-concerned legislature and citizenry
  • A carbon tax bill has been introduced in the legislature
  • Experience with carbon pricing through participation in a regional carbon-pricing system

District of Columbia

  • Zero industrial-sector CO2 emissions
  • Citizens are very liberal and climate-supportive
  • Carbon taxes have polled above 50%
  • Relatively high solar power deployment
  • Ballot measure option available
  • Active carbon tax campaign underway

Hawaii

  • Low industrial-sector emissions
  • Very liberal citizenry and legislature
  • #1 state in per-capita solar power
  • Excellent opportunities for renewable energy in general
  • Carbon taxes have polled above 50%

Illinois

  • Citizens and legislature are liberal-to-very-liberal and supportive on climate issues
  • State ranks #4 in polling support for a carbon tax (just below 50%)

Maryland

  • Low industrial-sector emissions
  • Liberal citizenry and legislature
  • #9 among 50 states in per-capita solar power deployment
  • Experience with carbon pricing through participation in a regional carbon-pricing system

Massachusetts

  • Very low industrial-sector emissions
  • Very liberal citizenry and legislature
  • Strong voter climate concern
  • #5 among 50 states in per-capita solar power deployment
  • Strong and well-crafted carbon tax measures are advancing in both houses of the legislature
  • Experience with carbon pricing through participation in a regional carbon-pricing system

New York

  • Very low industrial-sector emissions
  • Very liberal citizenry
  • Legislature is generally supportive on climate issues
  • #2 ranking among 50 states in polling support for carbon taxes
  • Experience with carbon pricing through participation in a regional carbon-pricing system

Washington

  • Low industrial-sector emissions
  • Citizens and legislature are liberal and fairly concerned about climate
  • Fielded first U.S. carbon tax ballot measure last fall
  • Ongoing efforts for carbon tax legislation by popular governor, members of the legislature and strong citizens organizations

This post was co-authored with Yoram Bauman, the PhD economist who founded Carbon Washington and co-chaired the carbon tax initiative in that state last fall. Bauman was lead author of the CTC report summarized here.

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