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  • Writer's pictureRaid Attir

19 - Is Carbon Tax Restraining Carbon Emissions?

Updated: Jan 7, 2019

As we are observing increase in CO2 emissions partially resulting from human activities, jurisdictions and governments put in place carbon policies to target CO2 emissions which result from fossil fuels consumption. Such carbon policies are:

  • the Cap & Trade system

  • the Carbon Tax system (which is more popular)

This article ONLY discuses Carbon Tax system

What is Carbon Tax?

Carbon Tax is a fee imposed on businesses, levied on the amount of CO2 emissions that resulted from the burning or the combustion of fossil fuels. It aims to:

  • Disincentivise the use of fossil fuel by putting a levy on its consumption, aiming to make it prohibitive in pricing

  • promote the use of environment-friendly sources of energy by making them economically attractive

What is the rational behind Carbon Tax?

Carbon Tax is a quantification of the estimated environmental damage (current or future) caused by the additional CO2 emitted to the atmosphere by business activities, which are usually industrial and transportation related.

In the past, the cost of restoring the damage caused by climate change was borne by the society (or the government). Nowadays, regulators want to attach a monetary value to the cost of pollution and make the polluter pay for it, rather than the society.

In Canada, the Carbon Tax is $10 per tonne in 2018, and will rise by $10 per year to $50 per tonne in 2022

What are the fossil fuels subject to Carbon Tax?

  • Oil (including Bitumen)

  • Natural Gas

  • Coal

Carbon Tax is applied on Fossil Fuels only, and not on other Carbon-Based Fuel such as Bio-Fuel

What are the benefits of applying a Carbon Tax?

  • it establishes social efficiency by making businesses pay for the environmental impact caused by their CO2 emissions

  • it generate government revenue, which can be spent on preventing and mitigating CO2 emissions impact

  • it encourages businesses and consumers shift from fossil fuels to environment-friendly sources of energy

  • with time, it helps reduce environmental costs associated with CO2 emissions

  • it helps creating a new economy that is more environment-friendly

What is preventing Carbon Tax from being effective?

  • taxes are generally prohibitive to business growth and might discourage investment

  • increase in Carbon Tax evasion activities, such as misrepresentation of CO2 emissions

  • difficulties in reporting the amount of CO2 emissions

  • difficulties in estimating a right and fair amount for environmental damage caused by CO2 emissions

  • increase in businesses' overhead cost due to the additional reporting and measuring requirements

  • increase in government spending due to the additional auditing, reporting, and tax collection activities

  • relocation of businesses to tax-relaxed jurisdictions. This will only results in shifting the source of CO2 emissions without reducing them

  • Carbon Tax cost will be transferred to consumers as part of the product cost

Final Words

With today's globalization, any tax can't be decided in isolation of other jurisdictions' fiscal policies, especially that businesses have full mobility.

An effective Carbon Tax system should be agreed among and applied by several jurisdictions; this ensures that the jurisdiction which applies a carbon policy is not operating at a competitive disadvantage.

We will be happy to share more details on this post, so please don't hesitate to contact one of our team members.

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Oea Services : Commercial Management

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