Carbon tax: Count me in

Even the very debate about a carbon tax has focused minds on our environmentally expensive lifestyle

Even the very debate about a carbon tax has focused minds on our environmentally expensive lifestyle. A carbon tax hits almost everything we do up here: food, heating, driving, flying, mining — you name it — has a carbon footprint and therefore attracts a carbon tax. And even at the low rate being suggested, people will notice. This is good. A decision like “Should I continue to pay a high fuel bill or should I insulate more?” is being pushed in the direction of insulate. The decision “Should I fly to Vancouver for the weekend?” is being pushed in the direction of no.

Some of our carbon footprint up here is not really under our control: Food and goods are either trucked up here or we go without. The carbon intensity of that shipping is not under our control. Hence the phrase “revenue neutral”: tax all carbon usage, then pay people back at a flat rate. That way people who fly less, drive less, insulate more are ahead of the game. People who fly, drive and consume more, will pay more. Some activities become economically less attractive. That is the reality of what happens when we start to address climate change seriously.

Now some people will be hit, those who can not afford it or are in no position to alter their carbon footprint. People on low incomes in rented accommodation, for instance. The way the revenues from the carbon tax are divvied out has to address that inequity. And that means almost certainly that the revenues have to go to the communities more than to Whitehorse, and to the poor rather than the middle classes. I welcome this tax. It applies economic pressure for better environmental behaviour.

I like Air North. They are a very good airline, but their complaints about the proposed carbon tax are not surprising, and should be considered like the complaints of horse whip manufacturers as cars took over. Flying is going to get more expensive and less common.

I have sympathy for placer miners, but if the global environmental cost of their activity is high, then something has to change.

These changes are coming at us whether we like them or not. A gradual introduction of a carbon tax is better than climate change coming at us uncontrolled. It is like the difference between having a 50-pound weight lowered onto your back or a 50-pound weight dropped on your back. Neither is pleasant, but one is clearly preferable to the other.

Peter Coates