It’s time to tackle greenhouse gas emissions

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Sir: Victor Hugo penned the words: “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” In that spirit, the time has come to discuss what can be done to stop and reverse the impacts of global warming caused by the continued burning of fossil fuels.

About 97% of climate scientists have come to the conclusion that the burning of fossil fuels by humanity has negatively impacted the earth’s climate with carbon parts per million now well past what is considered a safe threshold of 350 parts per million, currently is past 400 parts per million and continuing to climb. Indeed, 13 of the last 15 years have been the hottest on record with only a 1 in 27 million chance of this occurring naturally; humanity’s burning of fossil fuels would seem the most likely reason for this ongoing heat wave.

There are natural solutions to sequester carbon, in the soil, in perennial plants such as trees, in sea grass, in forest fungi, but the one solution that has been a political hot potato has been carbon pricing.

Currently the price of fossil fuels has dropped substantially, allowing for the implementation of a system to help citizens curb fossil fuel use with far fewer pains. There have been many proposals as to how to do this – regulation of emissions, cap and trade, a carbon tax – but none of these appear to have the ease of implementation and positive impact on the lives of citizens as fee and dividend.

Fee and dividend is a win-win solution for citizens and our environment. In fee and dividend, a fee, that increases annually, is applied to fossil fuels, say $10 a tonne at its point of extraction if it is domestically produced fossil fuels, or point of import. Businesses will of course pass this expense onto consumers, as businesses do when they have to adjust input costs. A rise in the price on a good or service will in turn prompt consumers to make choices that use less carbon due to rising costs, thus helping the environment by decreasing the fossil fuel use.

That fee collected from fossil fuel producers/importers is in turn, collected, pooled and then divided up in the form of a dividend cheque to all Canadian citizens to help defray some of the costs of rising prices. Those households that decide to use fewer fossil fuels will have more of this dividend cheque left as they avoid fossil fuel use. Businesses that use fewer fossil fuels will also find their expenses lowered and products more attractive.

Imagine if every adult citizen received a cheque for $350 every month for a year and from then on from whatever the pool of carbon fee money provided? What would an additional $4,200 hundred dollars per citizen per year (in this example) do for the average household in Chatham-Kent? The impacts on the local economy would be significant. This dividend will ensure that two-thirds of Canadian families will come out even or ahead while fossil fuels use is discouraged due to the expense.

A fee and dividend program spurs business to invest in clean technology and methods while driving down carbon emissions. It is also a market solution, as government is not playing favourites. The market signals the preferences of consumers and rewards those who have undertaken the most efficient business practices.

Governments and parties that are leery about raising taxes can vote for it because it does not raise taxes on citizens or business. Governments can take credit for doing its part to boost the economy while reducing carbon dioxide emissions and helping to cool the earth.

Lance Meredith

Chatham

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