Prominent Republican leaders met with White House officials in late February to discuss the idea of imposing a national carbon tax to fight climate change. This marks the first time Republicans have put forward a “concrete, market-based climate solution,” said Ted Halstead of the Climate Leadership Council.
The group is led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, who is joined by Secretary of State George P. Schultz and former secretary of the Treasury Henry M. Paulson, Jr. The Republican group says that taxing carbon pollution is “a conservative climate solution” based on free-market principles.
Under the proposal, nearly all of the Obama administration’s climate policies would be eliminated and replaced with a rising carbon tax. The tax would start at $40 per ton. (An issue brief from the World Resources Institute estimated that a $25 per ton carbon tax could cut emissions 20 to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.)
The money raised from the tax would go back to American taxpayers via a quarterly tax from the Social Security Administration. The group estimated that the average family of four would receive about $2000 annually in dividends.
The group calls the tax conservative because it would reduce the size of government by eliminating President Obama’s climate policies. Also, revenue from the tax would go to taxpayers rather than back to government programs. They also say it is progressive, because everyone would receive the same amount, regardless of income level.
“This ticks every one of their boxes,” said Halstead. It is pro growth, pro competition, pro jobs, deregulatory, and it will help the working-class voters that Trump promised to help.”
While the group remains skeptical that climate change is primarily due to human activity, it stated that the stakes of inaction were too high. “I don’t accept the idea that it’s all man made,” said Baker. “But I do accept that the risks are sufficiently great that we need to have an insurance policy.”
Whether the Republican-led initiative will gain traction remains to be seen, though the proposal does have support from both the left and the right. A carbon tax has been embraced by leading climate scientists and advocacy groups. Al Gore has spoken out in favor of a carbon tax. Even major oil companies have come out in favor of it.